SALT LAKE CITY -- Five horses at one Utah facility have tested positive for the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), the state Department of Agriculture and Food announced Wednesday night.
The name and location of the facility was not disclosed. The department's news update stated that it is not recommending the cancellation of any events involving horses, mules or burros at this time.
The outbreak of the highly contagious virus was first reported last Friday among horses that had been exposed during an a Cutting Horse event in Ogden April 29-May 8.
Layton veterinarian David Hill, of the Kayscreek Veterinary Clinic, said he is just trying to give people facts about the disease so they have solid information on which to act.
"People fan the flames with nonfactual information, which doesn't help things," he said, noting the emotional investment owners have in their horses.
Hill pointed out that of the 500 horses that were at the Ogden event, very few became ill.
"You look at the amount of horses that were in contact with each other versus the number that were affected, it's still a small percentage," he said.
"Only a few are affected, of those, only a few are affected severely."
Hill said that Equine Herpes Virus is spread only by direct contact, common water, common fences or aerosol from a sneeze up to 20 feet away.
"The take-home message from me is if your horses were not in direct contact with the horses at the show, you have virtually nothing to worry about," he said. "They are at no greater risk than at any other time."
Hill said the disease is "very rare."
"We've only had two or three outbreaks in the last two or three years," he said. "Usually it's limited to two or three horses."
State Veterinarian Bruce King said Wednesday he believes horse owners are responding well to the situation.
"They are keeping horses home and watching closely. That is probably as good a thing we can do to prevent its spread."
King confirmed that three horse facilities between Brigham City and Utah County currently are under hold orders because horses there have demonstrated symptoms of the virus. It was not clear whether any of those facilities is home to the infected horses from Wednesday night's announcement.
He said fewer than 40 horses from Utah were at the Ogden event that drew about 500 horses during the competition from all over the Western United States and Canada.
"None of them have shown signs except for those we are testing," King said.
Signs of the disease include an elevated temperature and lethargy, states a website of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. However occasionally, the disease can become a neurologic disorder. In those cases, symptoms can include nasal discharge, incoordination, hind end weakness, recumbency, lethargy, urine dribbling and diminished tail tone, states the American Association of Equine Practitioners site.
King said if the disease is found in horses that did not attend the Ogden event, he will cancel all horse-related events scheduled for the near future.
"We're either going to be back to business as usual or we are going to be canceling all equine events," he said. "We should know that within the next week to 10 days."
The disease cannot be passed from animals to humans.