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Department of Livestock Recommends Cancellation of Equine Events in Flathead County

Following multiple confirmed cases of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in Flathead County, the Montana Department of Livestock is recommending that horse owners and event coordinators in the Flathead Valley limit travel and cancel events that bring horses from multiple sources together through February 6th, 2023.
The recommendation is based on involvement of horses on 3 premises that attended events at two or more event centers in the area. Several horses have been euthanized because of poor prognosis. The date of the department's recommendation spans 14 days which is one full incubation period (time from exposure to the development of clinical signs) of EHV-1 beyond known travel history of involved horses. If additional cases of EHV-1 are detected, this date will be extended.
EHV-1 is a potentially serious disease of horses that can cause respiratory or neurologic disease in affected animals. The neurologic form of disease, equine herpes myeloencephalopathy, is often fatal. To date, 5 cases of EHV-1/EHM (3 confirmed and 2 suspected) have been reported on 3 separate premises. Four of the confirmed and suspected cases have been euthanized due to the severity of disease. The fifth animal is exhibiting mild clinical signs and is under quarantine. Exposed horses from the affected premises are also subject to quarantine for 21 days beyond the last date of potential exposure.
The department reports that several of the affected horses had no travel history, but herd mates, who remain without symptoms attended events where they were exposed and therefore, likely contributed to disease spread at their home locations and other equine events.
“Disease spread in apparently healthy horses is an important consideration in our recommendation for the cancellation of equine events,” said Montana State Veterinarian, Dr. Martin Zaluski.

Horse owners who have attended events in the Flathead Valley in recent weeks should monitor their animals for fever (temperature greater than 101.5° F) or development of any neurologic signs for two weeks after their last travel. Neurologic signs can include incoordination, difficulty walking, weakness, paralysis, inability to stand, poor tail tone, and difficulty urinating. Horses infected with EHV-1 may also have respiratory signs such as cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Horse owners concerned about the health of their horses should contact their local veterinarian. Suspected cases of EHV-1/EHM should also be reported to the department.
The disease is primarily spread through aerosol transmission by inhalation of droplets from coughing and snorting. Additionally, the virus can be viable for several weeks in the environment and spread indirectly between horses. Common water sources, feeders, tie-outs, and shared equipment and tack can all contribute to spread. Additionally, people can carry the virus between animals, typically through inadequate washing of hands or equipment. Horse owners should work with their local veterinarians on biosecurity recommendations to help reduce disease spread.
General recommendations for equine travel include:

• Keep any horses exhibiting signs of disease, including fever, at home.
• Avoid shared water sources, equipment, tie out locations, and trailering.
• Consider isolating horses that travel off premises away from their resident population of horses.
• Horses that have attend events should be monitored for 14 days beyond their last event.
• If an animal develops a fever, shows signs of respiratory illness, or neurologic disease, please isolate the animal and contact your local veterinarian.

The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals.

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