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Equine herpes forces cancellations, postponements of Colorado events

Bill Jackson
Greeley, Colo.

State agriculture officials continue to monitor the outbreak of equine herpesvirus in Colorado as the outbreak moves into its second week. The virus has forced the cancellation and postponement of many horse events in Colorado and throughout the West.

As of Monday, there were nine confirmed cases of EVH-1, but none of them other than the original two horses that had the disease were euthanized after showing the severe neurological signs associated with it. The virus poses no threat to humans, but it can be fatal to horses if not treated early.

Christi Lightcap, spokeswoman for the state agriculture department, said eight of those horses had been at a national cutting horse event in Ogden, Utah, and the ninth had been exposed to a horse that had been at that event.

In addition, the state agriculture department said there now 12 quarantine and hold orders that have been issued in eight counties – Weld, Bent, Boulder, Garfield, Gunnison, Larimer, Mesa and Morgan – and tests are pending on 22 more horses.

But, Lightcap said, treatment has already started on some of those 22 horses that may have come into contact with a diseased horse or in a facility where a diseased horse may have been kept.

The incubation period for the disease, Lightcap said, is four to six days but can be longer than that, up to 16 days. In addition, it can be latent in horses for a period before symptoms begin to show.

Lightcap said for that reason it’s difficult to determine how soon the outbreak will cease.

“We’re only in the second week, so it’s really difficult to predict what the future might be at this time,” she said in a telephone interview Monday.

Bill Ogg, executive director of the Greeley Stampede, said he and others at the Stampede are “guardedly optimistic that this will be under control and behind us” by the time the Stampede starts on June 24.

“The important thing right now is just to have people stay home until this is under control,” Ogg said. Island Grove Regional Park, he added, remains closed to horses until at least June 1.

Michelle Steinmetz is president of the Greeley Saddle Club. She said the club, based on what she is hearing from local veterinarians, plans to conduct its scheduled horse show and gymkhana Sunday at the club’s arena across the Poudre River from Island Grove Regional Park. The club had canceled its May 21 show.

“We’re just waiting for the state vet to call the city and say it’s OK to open the park,” she said.

Steinmetz said her veterinarian said he sees no problem with local horse shows, but cautioned horse owners about transporting horses to other parts of the state or out of state.

“I’m just hoping this will all be behind us in a couple of weeks,” she added.

Meanwhile, horse shows at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo have been postponed and rescheduled. Those include the Mountain Shooting Regional. It had been scheduled for May 27-30 and will now be Oct. 7-10. The Sagebrush Slide Cow Horse Show, originally scheduled for June 1-5, is now Aug. 10-14. The Zamora Roping, which was to be May 20-23, has not yet been rescheduled, state fair officials said.

State veterinarians said that while common vaccines are available for EHV-1 immunization, they do not protect against the neurological form of the disease. They do, however, protect against respiratory and abortion forms of EVH-1.

The ag department’s Lightcap echoed Steinmetz in cautioning horse owners about transporting their horses. Last week, the department issued new regulations regarding out-of-state horses coming into Colorado.

“We need to keep taking those preventative steps for the next two or three weeks and hopefully, by that time, this will all be behind us,” she said.


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