Herpes diagnosed in horse in Flathead County

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A horse in Flathead County has been diagnosed with the neurological form of the equine herpes virus after showing signs of the disease, the Montana Department of Livestock said Thursday.

The horse likely was exposed at an event in Ravalli County earlier this month, based on travel history of the animal and the incubation period of the disease. The state is working with event organizers to inform event participants of the potential risk.

Equine herpes virus occurs naturally in equine populations and may cause respiratory disease, abortion in mares, neonatal foal death and/or neurologic disease. There are two types of the virus responsible for outbreaks in the United States — the neuropathogenic form and the wild type.

The horse in question appears to be infected with the less virulent strain, which is not as likely to cause neurological or severe clinical symptoms, the Department of Livestock said.

According to assistant state veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, the affected horse developed weakness, which progressed into an inability to rise or stand two weeks after attending the event. The infection was confirmed by blood and nasal swab samples. The horse seems to be improving, he said.

“At this time, this incident of equine herpes virus is limited in scope, but there remains a possibility for additional cases,” Szymanski said.

The event in Ravalli County was put on by a local club. The club is working effectively with the state to manage the incident, he said.

Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your horse may be affected with the virus, or contact Szymanski at tszymanski@mt.gov or (406) 444-2043.

Additional information may also be found on the Department of Livestock Facebook page, www.facebook.com/mtdol, or from a USDA brochure on the virus; go to www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/ehv.

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