Equine virus holds no immediate threat here

Andrew Alexander

A deadly horse virus gave local horse trainer Kevin Hosea, the 2010 USTPA World Champion Ranch Sorter, a bit of a scare recently, but the threat to local horses remains low.

“I had to quarantine the two horses I took with me to Fort Worth,” said Hosea, speaking of a recent trip to Texas for the Coors Challenge penning event, “and also had customers’ horses I keep at my facilities quarantined as well, just to be on the safe side.”

A press release from the United States Team Penning Association (USTPA) dated May 15 reported that a horse competing in this year’s Coors Challenge was carrying a mutant strain of equine Rhinopneumonitis (EVH1), a disease that is harmless to humans, but highly transferable and lethal to horses.

According to the press release, EVH1 has several neurological symptoms and can cause paralysis and death to the equine species. 

The American Association of Equine Practitioners states that the virus infects the respiratory tracts of horses, causing coughing and nasal discharge and other symptoms including fever, lethargy and anorexia.

The virus then spreads to other horses through secretions from the coughing, or from direct or indirect contact with nasal discharge from an infected horse.

Theoretically, a horse trainer, rider, or owner could unknowingly infect their horse simply by stepping in a sick horse’s spit and tracking it into their healthy horse’s stall. 

“The virus was first spotted at a quarter horse event in Utah,” said Tennessee Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher, “and after the show there was an outbreak.”

Veterinary News reports that nine western states have confirmed cases of the EVH1 virus, but fortunately for McNairy County, and Kevin Hosea, no horses around here seem to be at any immediate risk.

“It was an isolated event, but is worrisome to horse owners everywhere,” said Dr. Hatcher. “We’re telling people to consult their vets, travel at their own risk, and isolate their horses after traveling, just to be sure.”

Hosea did exactly that, and today his horses seem to be just fine.

Hosea went on to make it clear that the USTPA had given the all clear to every contestant at this year’s Coors Challenge after having rigorously tested the horse suspected of carrying of the virus.

“I never really thought I was in any trouble with my horses,” said Hosea. 

“When you have a disease that deadly and widespread you have to step up and take every precaution as a responsible horse owner to keep from becoming a part of the problem.”

While the exact number varies in how many days the incubation period for the EVH1 virus lasts, most suggest a period between 4 and 14 days, but some experts, like Washington’s state veterinarian, Dr. Leonard Eldridge, say the period could last up to 28 full days. 

With horse shows and competitions all over the country being canceled due to the EVH1 outbreak, McNairy County, at least for now, will continue on with equine activities.

“Rain is the only thing delaying us at this point,” said the Milledgeville Saddle Club President, Crystal White.

The Milledgeville Saddle Club was scheduled to host events beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 28, but was forced to push the date back because of drainage problems on their property.

“We do not have any competitors reporting sickness in their horses,” said White, “but our parking lot is still too saturated for trucks and trailers to park in.”

The Saddle Club is looking ahead to next Saturday, June 4, to be the next date equine events will go on at their facilities in Milledgeville.