WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Colorado State University is taking only emergency equine cases and postponing routine horse care as a precaution. Horses suspected of having EHV-1 will be isolated at a facility separate from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS) – Colorado officials announced permits are now required for horses entering the state due to an outbreak of a deadly virus.
There are now three confirmed cases and nine suspected cases of the Equine Herpes Virus-1 in the state. Four counties -– Boulder, Larimer, Mesa, and Weld –- are now quarantining horses.
Experts say the virus can be very dangerous for horses, llamas, and alpacas, causing respiratory and nerve damage that could lead to death.
At Colorado State University Veterinary Hospital, staff are only taking emergency horse cases as a precautionary measure.
Some stable owners have locked down their facilities, not allowing any animals in or out.
“They’re quarantined to the property,” said Audrey Horton, who runs a boarding stable in Fort Collins. She’s keeping her 50 horses quarantined to protect them from the outbreak.
“The virus is horrible,” she said.
So she now has a new rule during the outbreak: no new horses are allowed at the stables, and if an owner takes their horse off property, they can’t come back. She’s even tied pink ribbons to the gates.
“It means you can’t take your horse out off the property,” she said.
“What we’re seeing right now is very unusual,” said Prof. Paul Lynn of the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “One of the biggest outbreaks there has ever been, and certainly the biggest geographically speaking.”
At CSU’s teaching hospital, there have been no cases reported, and they hope to keep it that way.
“We don’t want horses coming together in one place and gathering because it’s an opportunity for the virus to spread,” said Lynn.
The head of the vet school’s clinical science department said EHV-1 spreads from horse-to-horse contact. Humans cannot contract the virus, but they can help prevent it from spreading.
“The most important thing a horse owner can do right now is keep your horse at home, don’t let other horses on the property, and don’t spread the virus yourself because it can contaminate equipment,” said Lynn.
Horton said her new quarantine rule will last at least three weeks.
“I’m not really worried right now because I keep close tabs on everybody that’s coming and going,” she said.
Horses in Colorado that became sick from the virus were all at a competition in Utah around the beginning of May.
Experts at CSU said it’s best if all horse events are postponed.
So far, at least 17 horses in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, California, Washington and Canada have been infected with the virus, and three have died.
Infected animals usually get sick between two and 14 days after they are exposed to the virus. Symptoms include fever, sneezing, staggering and partial paralysis.