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Concern growing over deadly new horse virus

by Tiffany Craig / KHOU 11 News

Posted on May 23, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Updated Monday, May 23 at 2:12 PM

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas –Concern is growing over a horse herpes virus that’s spreading across the country.

Called Equine Herpes Virus-1, the new strain is highly contagious and deadly. It can spread from horse to horse through the air or as easily as sharing feed and water.

Horse owners learned about the strain after the outbreak was reported at a horse show in Ogden, Utah a few weeks ago. Experts believe at least 1,000 animals have been exposed to the virus and there’s concern that it’s spreading.

What makes the virus even more dangerous is that it can live without a host for days.

There are no cases of the horse virus at the Southern Breeze Equestrian Center in Fresno, but that hasn’t stopped those who use the place from becoming worried.

"The vet can bring it in the virus on his clipboard," said Cathy Strobel, who owns Southern Breeze. "The carrier can bring it in on his shoes. I mean you can practice all kinds of cleanliness but you can’t prevent germs from spreading. You can reduce it"

At Southern Breeze, they are limiting travel for the 60 horses that call the place home. They have also just started Dressage shows and are cutting down on participants to avoid any possible contamination.

If a horse has been exposed to the virus, it will usually get sick in 2 to 14 days. Symptoms include fever, sneezing, staggering and partial paralysis.