With two confirmed cases of equine herpes virus in the state and at least six other suspected cases, officials have closed two local fairgrounds to all horse-related activities.
The La Plata County Fairgrounds will remain closed to horse-related activities for at least two weeks, and the Sky Ute Fairgrounds on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe reservation will be closed to horses until June 1.
After consultation with other fairgrounds, local veterinarians and Colorado State University, we decided that it would be prudent to restrict horse movement and possible spread of this highly contagious virus, Al Thye, county general services director, said in a news release.
Horses will not be allowed to enter the fairgrounds facilities during the ban, he said. Officials from both fairgrounds said they plan to evaluate the situation to determine if a longer prohibition is warranted.
The confirmed and suspected cases of the virus were discovered in horses in Boulder, Larimer, Mesa and Weld counties, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Several horses of concern are being cared for by veterinarians in secure locations, officials said.
Across Colorado, two horses already have been euthanized after showing severe neurological signs of the disease, a news release from the state agency said.
The confirmed cases were in horses that recently attended the National Cutting Horse Associations Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, the release said.
Residents who attended the Utah event are encouraged to isolate their horses and contact a veterinarian.
The disease is highly contagious and can cause respiratory problems, neurologic disease and death. There is no cure, though symptoms may be treatable, officials said.
Symptoms can include fever, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine leakage, loss of tail tone, limb weakness and lethargy. Some horses can be infected without showing symptoms, officials said.
Equine herpes virus is spread through nose-to-nose animal contact, equipment, human clothing, and in some cases, it can be airborne, officials with the Department of Agriculture said.
It is not transmissible to humans.
This disease can have tremendous effects on the horse community, and I encourage horse owners to be vigilant about the disease-prevention methods they use within their premises, State Veterinarian Keith Roehr said in a news release.