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More horse virus cases cause Jamestown event cancellation

Horses graze in a pasture near Jamestown earlier this month. Forum News Service file photo

JAMESTOWN, N.D.—With two other horses suspected of having a rare, and often deadly, disease in Stutsman County in south-central North Dakota, a second major riding event scheduled for Jamestown has been cancelled.

Betty Job, president of the Windsor Horse Club, said three horses that belonged to her sister's herd have been euthanized.

The first horse put down was tested and confirmed to have equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy, she said. Two more horses became ill with the same grave symptoms and were put down, but not tested.

So officially in the state there have been only two cases, the fatal EHM case in Stutsman County and another in the far southwest corner in Bowman County.

Deputy State Veterinarian Beth Carlson said they have been getting a lot of calls from people who are concerned.

It's understandable that trail ride and event organizers want to act on the best information available and not out of fear and rumors, she said. The best prevention resources and latest information on confirmed cases are posted on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture's EHV-1 webpage, she said.

Because of the Stutsman County cases, Job said the St. Judes Ride and Roast Beef Supper scheduled for June 9 was cancelled.

One of the horses euthanized had just given birth, Job aid. Her bottle-fed colt was isolated on another ranch while the remainder of the herd and an employee's herd are showing no symptoms about halfway through a 30-day quarantine, she said.

The risk of an infected horse, person's clothing or equipment coming in contact with other horses was just too much to risk to hold the ride, Job said.

"I have an older stallion and don't want it to die from something like that," she said.

The ride and dinner benefit will likely be rescheduled in the fall, she said.

Alicia Harstad, extension agent in agriculture and natural resources with North Dakota State University Extension Stutsman County, said a decision will be made in a few weeks whether the service's horse show will be held this year at the Stutsman County Fair. It would be disappointing to cancel and a decision now would be premature, she said.

"We are definitely thinking about it and it will ultimately be up to the horse owners and how comfortable horse owners are or not," Harstad said.

There is always a risk of the disease when horses travel and owners should do all they can to practice biosecurity, Harstad said. That includes not sharing buckets, feed and equipment and keeping other horses and owners at a distance, she said.

"It is important to practice good biosecurity and when traveling it's important to know what things to do before you go and while you're at events," Carlson said.

EHM can remain dormant for some time, she said. Most horses respond well and recover but some do not, she said.

A horse with a runny nose or fever is not a danger sign in itself but it is unusual when the symptoms linger, she said. Minimize exposure risks during travel and events by staying the minimum time necessary, she said.

"Any time a horse has a fever that is not resolved and is showing neurological signs of EHM it is time to consult a veterinarian," Carlson said. "You don't call the doctor for every fever but when it's really high or is not going away in a reasonable time that is considered abnormal."

In neighboring South Dakota, there have been two cases reported, although both horses survived. One case was near Sioux Falls and confirmed on April 10, while the other involved a horse that had been in a college rodeo in Nebraska in early May and was owned by a member of the South Dakota State University rodeo team. In Minnesota, a warning was put out, but no deadly cases have been reported.