State veterinarians confirm first case of 'horse herpes' in Utah

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State veterinarian officials have confirmed the first case of horse herpes in Utah. (File Photo: KUTV)

State veterinarian officials have confirmed the first case of horse herpes in Utah.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food stated in a press release on Thursday that the first confirmed case of Equine Herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) has appeared in Utah this year.

According to the UDAF, a Weber County horse tested positive sometime this week and has been quarantined. Prior to the diagnosis, other horses on the farm of origin were isolated from the infected horse and are currently being monitored for signs of illness, stated the UDAF.

The UDAF stated it's unknown at the time where the horse contracted EHV-1, but it did compete at barrel racing events on Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 at the Weber County Fairgrounds.

The agency added that any horses that attended these events are considered potentially exposed and close monitoring, including twice-daily temperature readings, is advised. Any horses that develop a fever or show neurological signs should be isolated immediately and owners should contact their veterinarian for advice and treatment.

Dr. Chelsea Crawford, the assistant state veterinarian, stated:

We’re advising horse owners who have plans to attend events and competitions this season to practice diligent biosecurity. Limit or avoid horse-to-horse contact and use of shared communal water sources as much as possible, and disinfect shared equipment in between horses.

While there are multiple forms of the disease called equine herpesvirus, the neurological EHV-1 - also known as Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), is the most concerning.

The UDAF stated that signs of the disease include:

  • Fever
  • Decreased coordination
  • Urine dribbling
  • Loss of tail tone
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Leaning against objects to find balance
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to rise

There is no treatment for EHM but supportive care may aid an infected horse's recovery. The EHV-1 vaccines only protect against respiratory and abortion forms of the disease, not the neurological form.

However, they may reduce the severity of the disease and spread the virus. According to the Equine Disease Communication Center, humans cannot contract the disease but they can spread the virus from horse-to-horse by contaminated hands and clothing.

For more information, read the UDAF's online brochure or visit the American Association fo Equine Practitioners' website or the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website.