LONG BEACH - "We may be over-reacting, but we do not want to take any chances on horses getting very sick. There was a recent outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus 1 (EHV-1) at a National Cutting Horse Association event in Utah and there may be cases of it in Port Angeles and a couple near Yakima," Peninsula Saddle Club's Nancy Campiche said Wednesday, May 18. "As a precaution we will have our gates closed to visiting horses for two weeks as recommended, and we may re-evaluate."

In Ogden, Utah from April 30 to May 8 at least one horse tested positive for the highly contagious animal disease, EHV-1. Several confirmed cases in horses with severe symptoms have been found in Utah, Colorado, California and Washington.

"We haven't heard of any outbreaks of the virus here locally. It is something to be aware of, but nothing as of now to be panicky about. There are several types of the virus and the most serious is the strain that attacks the brain and central nervous system and that can be deadly. Again, we haven't seen anything to indicate there is a problem in our area, but we are keeping our eyes open," Oceanside Animal Clinic veterinarian Ed Ketel said Wednesday.

"While I have not yet placed any restrictions on the movement of animals, I strongly suggest that horse owners isolate animals that attended the Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah," said Washington Veterinarian Leonard Eldridge. "For the protection of other horses, these owners are advised to keep their animals home for a couple of weeks."

The disease poses no threat to people, but symptoms in horses can include fever, sneezing, slobbering and other mild symptoms. Serious cases of the disease are rare, but can include staggering, paralysis and even death.

A horse that attended the Ogden show was treated at the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman and was confirmed over the weekend to be positive for EHV-1. Blood samples from several other Washington horses that attended the Utah event are currently being tested at WSU's Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

The disease is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment, or on the clothes and hands of horse owners. "While there is no human public health threat associated with the disease, horse owners should carefully wash their hands and equipment to prevent the spread of the virus from horse to horse," Eldridge cautioned.

The time of exposure to illness of EHV-1 is typically two to 14 days. Horses that show any symptoms of EHV-1 should be seen by a veterinarian. Positive cases of EHV-1 must be reported to the Washington Veterinarian's Office at (360) 902-1881.

More information on the virus can be found at www.aaep.org/ehv.htm.

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