Horse Herpes Pulls the Reins on Horse Event

POSTED: Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 4:34pm

UPDATED: Friday, June 3, 2011 - 12:30pm

EL PASO- Horse competitions and events are on hold across the country because horse herpes is quickly spreading among traveling horses.

"Because it is so highly contagious, it affects the nervous system. So we're taking a high precaution on this. We're taking this very serious,” says Pascual Olibas.

Olibas owns the Tres Milagros Horse Stables in the upper valley and news has spread about the equine herpes virus.

"The equine herpes virus Myeloencephalopathy started in a horse show out of Ogden, Utah. One horse got sick and subsequent to that, they got about 300 other horses exposed," says Olibas.

Dr. Jose Ramos is horse vet in El Paso.
He tells us that the equine herpes virus affects the central nervous system can cause brain swelling and even death.

"We don't have a cure for the virus. There's some experimental drugs, antiviral drugs, that can be used to decrease the exposure," says Ramos.

In just about two weeks, the virus has spread across nine states including New Mexico where one horse died in Albuquerque.
It’s airborne, so the risk is increased when horses travel between shows.

"Some of the farms are doing, "no horse in, no horse out" for at least two more weeks that way you'll prevent horses from coming into the farm," says Ramos.

That’s exactly what Pascual is doing at his farm.

"We are not letting any horses go out of the stables or come into the stables."

People who spend time around horses, also need to be careful.

Now experts say there's no risk for people to contract the virus, but if they come close to a horse, they can spread the airborne virus to another horse through their clothes, or even their shoes.

"If you go and touch other horses at other farms before you come home and touch your own horse, you should clean yourself real good,” says Ramos.

There are symptoms that owners can look out for.

"Anywhere from lethargy, depression, recumbancy, most likely the horse will stop eating," says Ramos.

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