Flathead County Horse Tests Positive for Virus

By Beacon Staff

State livestock officials say a horse in Flathead County has tested positive for equine herpes virus after developing clinical signs of the disease.

It is the second case reported this month. Department of Livestock officials said Monday the Flathead case is not related to one found recently in Gallatin County.

Based upon the travel history of the animal and the incubation period of the disease, the horse was likely exposed at an event in Ravalli County earlier this month, officials said in a news release. The Department of Livestock is currently working with event organizers to inform event participants of the potential risk.

Equine herpes virus (EHV-1) is naturally occurring 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 U.S. – 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, state officials 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.

“At this time, this incident of EHV-1 is limited in scope, but there remains a possibility for additional cases,” Szymanski said.

An encouraging sign, Szymanski said, is that the index horse seems to be improving.

The event was put on by a local club. The club is well organized, Szymanski said, and has been working effectively with MDOL to manage the incident.

Department officials say the infected horse in Gallatin County arrived in Montana three weeks ago from southern California.

Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your horse may be affected with EHV-1, or with any specific questions about your horse. You may also address questions to Dr. Tahnee Szymanski at [email protected] or 406/444-2043.

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