Summit County cautious as Equine Herpes Virus investigated
Due to the outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) traced to a cutting event in Ogden, horse-related events in Summit and Wasatch Counties have been temporarily suspended. Horse owners are being encouraged to contain and monitor their animals for the next two weeks in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Some Summit County horses were in attendance at the Ogden cutting event, but no cases in the area have been reported so far, according to Jenifer Gold, an internal medicine veterinarian with Mountain Horse Medical in Park City.
The Oakley Rodeo Team cancelled this weekend’s rodeo despite it being the last qualifying event before Utah High School State Championships in June. According to Wade Woolstenhulme, President of the Utah High School Rodeo Association, the qualifying event has been rescheduled for the fall and it will most likely be held then from now on due to better weather conditions.
"Students had 30 rodeos to qualify; we did not think it was worth the risk of holding the event and bringing almost 300 horses into the valley. We could not verify or monitor the health of all the horses and would have to only rely on the honor system as to whether horses had been exposed," said Woolstenhulme.
The moratorium on events was not required by the state veterinarian but taken as a precautionary action to encourage people to keep horses at home until more has been revealed about the virus. Owners are encouraged to avoid major events and contact with other horses. Horses that have been infected with the virus or been in contact with infected horses should be isolated to contain the disease.
Symptoms begin to show up within six to ten days of exposure to the virus, leaving many questions still to be answered as test results continue to come in. The virus is most commonly transmitted through nose-to-nose contact between horses, as well as shared tools, water, and human hands.
"Anybody who owns a horse and is in the loop is concerned," said Kamas resident Vern Greco, who owns performance and recreational horses. "Even though I was not at the event, the disease is so highly contagious and interaction of performance horses so closely related, you can never be sure."
Owners are advised to take horses’ temperature twice a day as the first sign of the Equine Herpes Virus is a temperature spike. If a horse’s temperature is above 102 degrees, the animal should be taken to a vet immediately advises Gold. According to Gold, the veterinary office can offer supportive care and anti-viral medication to horses, but no cure or vaccine for the neurological strain exists and horses can only be given support to help them cure themselves.
"It is not a cause for mass-panic," said Gold, dismissing rumors that the virus is always fatal, "The only horses that have to be euthanized are ones who go incumbent and can not get up."
Besides checking their temperature, if a horse appears to be uncoordinated in the hind legs or has trouble urinating, Gold recommends immediately seeking treatment and isolating the animal.
Greco has locked down his horses and is closely monitoring them, saying that a new strain of a virus such as this is even more difficult to manage. His horses are not the only thing being affected by the outbreak; as owner of the New West County Story in Kamas, he usually takes a vendor trailer to state equine events. With most events being cancelled for the next few weeks, Greco is feeling the monetary impact of the virus as well.
"The horse industry in Utah is huge, with nowhere for vendors to go, there is going to be significant economic consequences," added Greco.
By canceling upcoming events, officials hope to ensure that upcoming summer equine events, such as the popular Oakley July 4 Rodeo, will be held without fear of contamination. As of now, the High School State Championships will be held as planned in Heber June 8 with medical precautions in place.
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The CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings in Summit County, a step backward precipitated by the rise in cases tied to the more-transmissible Delta variant.