North Dakota horse owners cautious of rare disease
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota horse owners are on high alert after a neurological disease surfaced in the state.
The state High School Rodeo Association and the Junior High Rodeo Division have canceled several rodeos in the wake of Lil Sis, a barrel racing horse from Bowman who died last month, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Tests showed Lil Sis had equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), a neurological disease caused by a form of equine herpes called EHV-1. The horse’s owners presume Lil Sis got infected when she was at the Bowman County Fairgrounds Indoor Arena this year.
“It’s like a network of activities that happen in the spring and the summer when these horses are all together,” said Susan Keller, a state veterinarian. “If we don’t know the source of that disease in Bowman, it’s likely there were other horse exposed also.”
EHV-1 can spread through air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. Symptoms of EHM include fever, decreased coordination and lethargy.
Keller said there have been about five lab-confirmed cases of EHV-1 in North Dakota, but only one of the EHM form.
The High School Rodeo Association canceled upcoming events to allow for 21-day quarantines so owners can monitor their horses.
“Everybody in the spring is raring to go with the rodeo, and there was a little bit (of pushback), but I think for the most part people understand ... I guess that chance of losing a horse is far greater than canceling a rodeo,” said Jeff Foss, association president.
Keller said the disease’s presence sheds light on the importance of vaccinations and biosecurity.
“This really was a wake-up call for a lot of people on better practices on water buckets and sharing pads and sharing horses, that type of thing,” Foss said. “I think people are more aware how it can spread, and people are monitoring their horses more now.”
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com