Horses banned from Minn. expo due to contagious virus - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Horses banned from Minn. expo due to contagious virus

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It's called the Horse Expo, but this year, there will be something missing -- the horses. That's because a serious and contagious disease has prompted organizers to ban most equids from attending.

Veterinarians across the state of Minnesota have declared a voluntary lockdown and are recommending that no horses be moved or intermingled for at least two weeks from the last positive case of equine herpes.

It's a sort of quarantine that ends right at the start of the Horse Expo, which means there will be 300 empty stalls. In fact, organizers are even limiting the number of show horses due to the outbreak.

"I never thought we'd see it," admitted Darrell Mead, who has held the post of barn manager at the show for more than 20 years.

According to Mead, the horses will be limited to those brought in for clinics and demonstrations out of an abundance of caution.

"We feel it's the safest thing to do for the horses in the state," he explained.

The outbreak began near the end of March, and so far, 9 horses have contracted EVH-1, including animals in western Wisconsin.

"It's just the fact that this is becoming a very infectious disease," Tom Tweeten, vice president of the Minnesota Horse Council, said.

Symptoms of the virus begin with mild respiratory issues, such as runny noses and low-grade fevers. If undetected, symptoms can become neurological. If left untreated, a horse may be unable to walk within a week. Of the 9 cases known so far, 3 have needed to be put down.

"I think that the question that comes up is: Do they understand the ramifications?" Tweeten said. "Do they differentiate it from the other equine illnesses that we typically see in the spring that we vaccinate for?"

The virus has no effect on humans, but it can be transmitted from people to horses, which is why petting the horses also won't be allowed. In fact, the expo plans to take extra precautions by including hand sanitizer and foot baths at the entrance and exit of the barns.

"We want to be vigilant," Tweeten said. "We wanted to minimize the exposure of this infection to be carried off campus."

This weekend, a similar event -- the Midwest Horse Expo -- took place in Madison, Wis. Horses were allowed in there, but experts tell Fox 9 News that event is believed to be far enough away from the outbreak that the animals should remain safe.

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