TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Three different ranches in Idaho are quarantined because of cases of equine herpes. Two of them are in the Magic Valley.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture said private locations in Jerome and Gooding counties have horses that tested positive for a neuropathogenic strain of equine herpes. Of the three forms the virus takes in horses, it’s the most serious one.
“Well the neurological form has a more grim outcome than either of the others,” said Bill Barton, the state veterinarian with the department of agriculture.
Barton said some horses can recover from the virus. Others don’t.
“Others get so debilitated and down that they can’t rise, they can’t eat, they can’t drink, so many times those neurological horses are euthanized,” he said.
That happened to horses on the ranches in Gooding and Jerome counties.
A third quarantined ranch in Gem County has a less severe form of equine herpes. Barton said one of the other ways the virus develops in horses is abortions of pregnant mares. The Gem County ranch had a confirmed case of that.
Horses start showing symptoms with a fever. If they have the virus they could then start showing weakness, "drunk" walking, a weak stream of urine, and a lethargic tail. Pregnant horses could have late-term abortions.
Melinda Roche, a doctor of veterinary medicine in Filer, discovered the case in Jerome. By state law if a horse is diagnosed with the virus, a vet or the owner needs to report it to the Department of Agriculture.
“There’s no protection for that, so that’s why it’s a reportable disease. If we see this coming around, we have to be really careful because it’s very contagious and there’s really no protection for it,” Roche said.
Roche said the virus is spread through nasal secretions or the tissue of the aborted fetal tissue. However, it’s most commonly spread from a human as they work with the horses, which is why vets urge people to use preventative biosecurity measures.
The State Department of Agriculture encourages people to disinfect stalls before use, never share water or feed buckets between horses and avoid unnecessary contact with other horses.
Barton is encouraging people not to transport their horses anywhere if they don’t have to.
“We always worry, even when we don’t have outbreaks like this we worry. That’s our job,” he said. “We’re concerned and we want to encourage owners to pay really close attention to their animals.”
In 2011 a massive outbreak of the virus happened after horses spread it around at a public event in Ogden, Utah.
Department of Agriculture officials believe right now that the cases are isolated, but cutting down on transportation can only help keep the disease from spreading.
“Our biggest fear is that a horse could develop an illness at a big event and then spread that to a lot of other horses,” Roche said.
Roche said people should be checking their horse’s temperature, especially if they are taking it somewhere. She encourages people to take it seriously, but that there is no need to panic right now.
The Department of Agriculture said there are cases in 12 states that have led to quarantines. The quarantines last for three to four weeks after the last reported case.