Virus closes fairgrounds to horses

Equine herpesvirus outbreak reported

The La Plata County Fairgrounds is off-limits to all horse-related activity because of a possible link between local equines and a horse infected with equine herpesvirus in Eagle.

No horses will be allowed on the premises until at least May 30, Mark McKibben, director of general services for La Plata County, said Friday.

"We'll evaluate the situation at that time," McKibben said.

Equine herpesvirus can take various forms, Dr. Nick Striegel, assistant state veterinarian, said Friday. It can cause respiratory problems, can cause mares to abort foals and, in its most severe form, result in neurological problems that interfere with the blood supply and result in the loss of brain and spinal-cord functions.

Equine herpesvirus can be transmitted from an infected horse to another horse that uses the same tack, Striegel said.

The confirmed case of herpesvirus is in Rio Grande County, Striegel said. A second horse, also in Rio Grande County, is showing a fever and is being watched, he said.

The disease presents no danger to humans, Striegel said.

Organizers of equestrian events this weekend would do well to assess the risks, Striegel said. If they harbor any doubts, he said, an event could be postponed.

The potential for La Plata County horses contracting equine herpesvirus resides in their presence at National High School Rodeo and Colorado Junior Rodeo Association events in Henderson on April 26-27, Eagle on May 2-4 and Rocky Ford on May 1-11.

Two equine events scheduled at the fairgrounds have been postponed.

The 4-H Gymkhana set for Sunday has been rescheduled for 4 p.m. June 14 and a 4-H Horse Show set for today will be held at 9 a.m. June 29.

For more information about the banning of horses at the fairgrounds, call Angela Fountain at 382-6465.