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This weekend's Wild Horse and Burro Festival at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park has been postponed after an outbreak of equine herpes virus was traced to an Ogden horse competition earlier this month.
Preliminary lab results on Utah horses showing symptoms of the disease have been negative, but state officials are awaiting further results on other sample materials.
"This is not an uncommon finding from nasal swab sampling," said state veterinarian Bruce King. "We are continuing to test clinically ill animals."
Several cases of the disease in horses from surrounding states were reported after the animals returned from the National Cutting Horse Association's Western National Championships at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden April 29-May 8. About 500 horses were at the show.
King said that if Utah horses not at the Ogden event become infected, he will recommend all events involving horses, mules and burros be canceled until the outbreak is contained.
Horses will still be allowed to travel into and out of the state, but owners should call the state of destination before travel for updated information on possible outbreaks or cancellations.
As a precaution, the 12th annual Wild Horse and Burro Festival set for Friday and Saturdayhas been postponed until Aug. 26-27.
The event at the Equestrian Park in South Jordan features two days of adoption, competition and performances. Eighty to 100 horse owners are expected at the festival, sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.
"People in the equine world are concerned about moving horses," said Utah Wild Horse and Burro Lead Gus Warr. "Hopefully by the fall, this will not be an issue."
A jumping clinic also has been canceled this weekend at Golden Spike because of the outbreak at the cutting horse championships. At that event, Colorado, Idaho, Canada and California had confirmed diagnoses in horses that were at the Ogden show.
Infected horses have been euthanized after showing severe neurological signs associated with the disease. The virus is not transmissible to people, but it can be a serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory, neurologic disease and death, say state officials.
The most common way for the disease to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.
Equine herpes virus
The virus is not transmissible to people, but it can be a serious disease in horses that can cause respiratory, neurologic disease and death:
The most common way for the virus to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact.
The disease also can spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.
Symptoms include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine dribbling, loss of tail tone, hind limb weakness, leaning against a wall or fence to maintain balance, lethargy and the inability to rise.
Source: Utah Department of Agriculture and Food