Outbreak of horse disease cancels events around the state

OLYMPIA — Horse events across the state are being canceled as a precaution to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease that has been confirmed in three horses in Washington.

The disease, Equine Herpes Virus-1, cannot be transmitted to humans but is easily spread among horses, alpacas and llamas. It can be airborne and transmitted by touch or by sharing feed, brushes, bits and other equipment.

One infected horse was diagnosed at Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman but has been released from the hospital and was in isolation elsewhere, said state Department of Agriculture spokesman Jason Kelly. The other two were isolated in Thurston and Chelan counties.

Blood samples from three more horses were being tested.

The six horses were either among the 34 horses from Washington at a National Cutting Horse Association event early this month in Ogden, Utah, where the disease apparently spread, or have been in close contact with those horses.

Horses in Oregon, Texas, California, Utah New Mexico and Colorado have also been diagnosed with the disease.

Equine Herpes Virus-1 is one of the most severe herpes virus found in horses. The potentially fatal virus can lead to respiratory illness, neurological problems, paralysis and miscarriage in pregnant mares. But all horses are susceptible to the virus.

Already, several horse events have been canceled as a precaution, including a 4H show May 28 at the Jefferson County fairgrounds. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Posse is pulling out of Saturday’s Armed Forces Day Parade in Bremerton.

The Washington Cutting Horse Association also canceled its first show of the season, which was scheduled for this weekend.

“Basically, we’re trying to get everybody to stay home for two or three weeks until we get this thing cleaned up,” said Jeff Sleeman, a member of the group’s board of directors. “Our organization decided that in the best interest of the equine that we should have not have the event this month.”