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Horse owners precautious after herpes outbreak in New Mexico

February 2nd, 2016 Posted in Agriculture

By Aubree Thomas

Utah officials are advising horse owners to be on guard following an outbreak of equine herpes in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. Until further notice, owners will need to receive additional permits and vet certificates when transferring horses across the border.

“We wanted to put the alert out because horses move so much between state borders, especially for races,” said Barry Pittman, the state veterinarian. “We wanted everyone in Utah to know that a disease was down there in a racetrack facility.”

Equine herpes, or EHV-1, was reported at a racing track near Las Cruces, New Mexico on Jan. 21. Since the initial outbreak there have been 18 confirmed cases and 13 barns have been quarantined. One horse has been euthanized because of the severity of the virus.

Larry Lewis, the public information officer for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said it is always a serious problem when a neighboring state has an outbreak.

According to Pittman, Utah’s main concern is avoiding exposure.

The risk with EHV-1 is that it can be spread quite easily. Pittman said it can be transferred through horse-to-horse contact and even through equipment such as tack and buckets.

The number of infected horses is expected to increase.

The numbers are going to change,” Lewis said. “There were a couple of horses that had mingled at a horse racing event. Some went to Texas and some went to Arizona.”

So far, though, there haven’t been any infected horses found in Utah.

Both Pittman and Lewis are urging horse owners to remain in close contact with their local veterinarians. It is also important for owners to know where any neighboring horses have traveled to and from.

“Every horse owner now needs to ask the question: ‘Where has my horse mingled with others and where have those other horses been?’” Lewis said.

Pittman said creating and maintaining a biosecurity plan should also be a top priority for horse owners. He advises them to isolate any sick horses and clean all equipment.

“If you have a sick horse, you should always clean up after it and isolate it,” Pittman said. “Don’t use the same tack, buckets or feed until the vet comes to check it out. Always sanitize everything.”

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