Two fairs in Eastern Washington cancelled their horse barns and events last weekend, citing concerns about West Nile virus and a recent case of Equine Herpes. Both the Northeast Washington Fair in Colville and the Lincoln County Fair in Davenport closed their horse exhibits.
Lori Matlock, manager for the Northeast Washington Fair, said the parents and exhibitors from the horse barn decided to forgo having their horses at the fair due to the potential for contagion.
“There wasn’t a mandate from the state to close the horse exhibits, that was a decision from the parents and exhibitors,” said Matlock. “We are hoping to move the horse section to October and hold the premiums so the kids can be part of the fair.”
Concerns over the potential spread of disease between horses came after a horse in Pend Oreille County tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy, or EHV-1. The owner of the horse decided to euthanize the animal. The disease is of particular concern due to how easily it can be spread, according to Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Assistant State Veterinarian Scott Haskell.
“EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to horses. The disease is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment,” Haskell said. “While people are not made sick by the virus, they can carry the virus on their clothes or hands. Horse owners should carefully wash their hands and equipment to prevent the spread of the virus.”
WSDA did not mandate the closure of any horse events or fair exhibits, but warned horse owners to watch for symptoms of the disease which include:
• Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher
• Discharge from eyes or nose
• Limb edema or swelling
• Spontaneous abortions
• Neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dribbling, lack of tail tone and recumbency.
West Nile also a concern
While less contagious than Equine Herpes, concerns over West Nile virus was also discussed regarding the horse fair event cancellation. Mosquitos at the Kettle Falls swimming area on Lake Roosevelt tested positive for West Nile virus in late July. West Nile can be transferred to horses or humans via mosquitos.
WSDA recommends that horses who exhibit symptoms should be checked for both West Nile Virus and EHV1 by a veterinarian. The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman is providing testing.
Vaccines, preventative measures
Horses can be vaccinated against both Equine Herpes and West Nile, according to WSDA. In addition to vaccinating horses as a precaution, horse owners can also take steps to limit exposure to disease by limiting horse to horse contact, limiting stress to horses and not sharing equipment between horses.
A 10 percent bleach disinfectant is recommended for cleaning barn areas, stables, trailers, or other equine contact surfaces after all organic matter (dirt, nasal secretions, uneaten feed, manure, etc.) is removed. Quarantining animals after they have been to a horse show or event can also prevent the spread of disease back at the farm, said Haskell.
“The time of exposure to illness of EHV-1 is typically two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with questionable symptoms, vaccinating horses for EHV-1 and West Nile virus, and practicing good biosecurity on the farm and during travel, horse owners can do a lot to help prevent further spread of the virus,” he said.
For more info, contact WSDA at (360) 902-1800 or visit www.agr.wa.gov.
By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff