OGDEN -- Utah's state veterinarian has confirmed one case of a rare and deadly disease in a horse in the Ogden area.
But he said that horse is currently under quarantine and the owner understands that there are severe penalties in place to keep him from moving that horse to where the gelding could spread the disease.
"The horse is not able to leave the premises," said Bruce King, the state vet. "No other horses are allowed on the premises."
King said an outbreak of equine piroplasmosis was localized to three Texas counties, but a ranch there had sold a number of horses around the country before the disease was discovered. He said the Ogden-area horse was one of those horses.
Owners of the infected horse, he said, intend to euthanize the animal but are waiting because they are seeking recourse from the ranch that sold it to them.
"The owner is waiting to see what the ranch has guaranteed it will do to make things right," King said.
King said he is sure he will know if any other horses become infected because all Utah veterinarians are required to report any animals that become infected. He said there are stringent rules on reporting of diseases considered foreign.
Veterinarians risk losing their license if they do not report such cases.
King said outside of areas where ticks may pass the disease from animal to animal, it is usually transmitted only by an exchange of blood, such as through shared needles.
He said once a horse is infected, there is no treatment and the animal will be a carrier for the rest of its life.
As of Jan. 20, 364 cases of equine piroplasmosis had been confirmed. Of those, 289 are on the sprawling King Ranch in Texas. The rest are scattered across Utah, Texas, Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to the World Animal Health Information System.
Jack Hunt, King Ranch CEO, confirmed that the outbreak started on the ranch, according to Scripps-Howard News Service.
Horses, donkeys, mules and zebras are susceptible to the disease, which is caused by two parasitic organisms. More severely affected animals can have fever, anemia, jaundiced mucous membranes, swollen abdomens and labored breathing.
Once a horse is infected, the parasitic organisms remain in the horse's system permanently, making the horse a potential carrier. It does not affect humans or other nonequine mammals.
Hunt, who has been in the ranching business for 35 years, said he had never heard of the disease before it was discovered in October.
The 825,000-acre King Ranch is renowned for its horses, including 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Middleground.
Though the ranch still has a horse-breeding program, no horses have been sold since the quarantine, Hunt said.
Hunt said King Ranch self-reported the infection, as required by law, and has worked openly with state and federal agencies since.
Information from Scripps-Howard News Service is included in this story.