Regulations tighten on horses entering North DakotaAn outbreak of an equine disease at a cutting horse event in Utah has prompted the North Dakota Board of Animal Health to change the regulations regarding horses visiting the state.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
An outbreak of an equine disease at a cutting horse event in Utah has prompted the North Dakota Board of Animal Health to change the regulations regarding horses visiting the state.
While the disease can be deadly to horses, it is not communicable to humans.
Dr. Susan Keller, North Dakota state veterinarian, said the new rules require any horse entering the state have a health certificate. Previous regulations exempted horses in the state for less than seven days, such as those attending a horse show or event, from the health certification requirement.
“At a cutting horse event in Ogden, Utah a horse had the neurotropic form of Equine Herpes Virus,” Keller said. “This horse exposed horses around it with 32 becoming ill and 10 that died or were euthanized.”
Secondary exposure (horses exposed to horses exposed in Utah) has also caused illness and led to some deaths. The disease is continuing to spread as more horses are exposed.
“Right now there are no cases in North Dakota,” Keller said. “But we wanted to reinforce the health certificate requirement and closed the rule concerning horses in the state for seven days or less.”
The neurotropic form of the Equine Herpes Virus is one form of the disease. A vaccine exists for EHV-1 but effectiveness against the neurotropic form is questionable.
“The vaccines are still being evaluated,” she said. “They may help but I don’t think anyone is saying they prevent the neurological form of EHV.”
In the meantime, horse owners are being advised to keep tack and feed equipment clean and refrain from exposing their horses to other horses. They should use a disinfectant of one part chlorine bleach and 10 parts water to wash trailers, stalls, water and feed troughs.
“It is transmitted by saliva and nasal discharge,” Keller said. “A horse cough or sneeze can spread the virus to animals and surfaces up to 35 feet away.”
Monitoring the animals is also important. Early treatment — usually supportive measures such as fluids and anti-inflammatory medicines — needs to be started early in the course of the disease.
“Look for weakness in the rear end and staggering,” Keller said. “Any sign that indicates the animal is loosing nerve function like urine dribbling. Any unusual signs; contact a veterinarian immediately.”
A three-week monitoring period after any possible exposure is recommended.
Keller cautions that the health certificate requirement is not a guarantee North Dakota will remain free of the disease.
“It can be a latent infection and remain silent until some stress brings it out,” she said. “Some silent cases like that can become clinical when the animal is under stress.”
Another factor is North Dakota horses traveling to horse shows in other states. There is no health-certificate requirement for a horse to return to North Dakota after a show where it may have been exposed.
The disease has been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
“Stopping the movement of affected horses is really the only way to stop the spread,” Keller said.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com