Contagious equine virus showing up in Minn.

Farm Forum

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — At least three horses in Minnesota have been euthanized because of a highly contagious equine virus that causes neurological problems.

Three cases of equine herpesvirus-1 have been confirmed, state animal health officials said. Two of the horses were euthanized because they couldn’t get up and the other is recovering. Tests are pending on four other horses that showed symptoms of the virus. One of the four was euthanized, the other three are recovering, officials said.

The infected Minnesota horses are in various parts of the state, from north of the Twin Cities to the Owatonna-Winona, the Star Tribune reported.

Dr. Paul Anderson, who oversees the equine program for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said the virus spreads when the horse breathes, spreading easily among horses that come in close contact.

“Most horses that get it don’t display any symptoms at all,” Anderson said. The virus can cause respiratory problems and abortions. “A small percentage can get this neurological form that involves the brain stem and shows central nervous signs, such as problems with coordination and trouble urinating. Occasionally it gets bad enough where there is death,” he said.

The virus is specific to horses and isn’t spread to humans or other animals. Anderson says a more serious neuropathogenic strain that has shown up in Minnesota in past years, has not been found so far.