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Horses Quarantined After Outbreak Of Equine Herpes In Ohio

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The Ohio Department of Agriculture is enforcing quarantines after four horses tested positive for herpes. Two of those horses recently participated in races in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The equine herpes virus doesn’t affect humans, but state veterinarian Tony Forshey explains it can be fatal for horses. The infection is primarily a respiratory illness, but it can infect the brain.

“If it develops into neurological forms, then those horses’ survival rates are not very good,” Forshey says.

Unlike other forms of the herpes virus, the infection spreads easily among horses, through the air or contaminated equipment. So Forshey says maintaining quarantine for effected animals is important.

“Those horses race at multiple tracks throughout a week, so they may travel in three or four different states within a week’s time,” Forshey says. “If they have this virus and they are shedding this virus, then obviously that spreads in multiple states very, very quickly.”

State agriculture officials say two horses also tested positive at the University of Findlay.  The cases don't appear related, but concerns about the outbreak have already prompted the cancellation of a horse sale at the Delaware County Fairgrounds later this month.  

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.