Mesa Fairgrounds equestrian arena closed as precaution against herpes virus outbreak

Mesa County Fairgrounds’ equestrian area was closed to horses Wednesday and will remain closed for possibly two weeks due to the outbreak of equine herpes virus in the region, the fairgrounds manager said.

The decision came as the Colorado Department of Agriculture announced there are now six confirmed cases of horses with the disease in this state, and 14 suspected cases.

Five of those horses attended the cutting-horse competition in Ogden, Utah, earlier this month, where the current outbreak is believed to have originated. The sixth horse came into contact with a horse that had attended the Ogden competition.

While most of the Mesa County fairgrounds remains open for a variety of activities, the equine area has been closed, and no horses are allowed in.

“We have no confirmation of any animal that was here at the fairgrounds has been infected or exposed,” said Marsha Kosteva, the fairgrounds manager. “We are in the process of contacting leaders of our equestrian groups and asking them to make inquiries.”

In addition to the temporary closure of the equestrian facility, the county postponed the dedication ceremony for the new horse barn, constructed this past winter, at the fairgrounds. The ceremony originally had been scheduled for today.

At least one horse in Mesa County that attended the competition in Utah has been confirmed to have the disease, and two others are under quarantine.

Two horses on the Front Range that attended the show in Utah have been euthanized, according to the Department of Agriculture. One was confirmed to have EHV-1, and one was suspected of having the disease. A total of nine horses in three Front Range counties, as well as Mesa County, have been quarantined because of the disease.

The temporary closure of the equestrian facilities at the Mesa County Fairgrounds is just one of a number of horse-related venues and events that have been canceled or postponed as a result of the EHV-1 virus. Among the others:

The Heart of the West Horse Sale, scheduled for Saturday at Western Slope Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction, has been postponed.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Posse Poker Run, set for Saturday, has been postponed.

The Monument Riding Club Gymkhana, scheduled for Saturday at 960 20 Road, has been canceled.

The 4-H Gymkhana, scheduled for Sunday at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Posse arena on 25 and F 1/2 roads, has been postponed.

According to the Agriculture Department, EHV-1 is not transmissible to people, but it can cause respiratory, neurological damage and death in horses.

“The most common way for EHV-1 to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact,” the department said. “It can also be spread by contaminated tack, equipment and people’s clothing.”

Additionally, it can be spread through the air by horses sneezing and coughing.

Symptoms of the disease include fever of more than 102 degrees, decreased coordination, nasal discharge, urine dribbling, loss of tail tone, hind-limb weakness, leaning against a wall or fence to maintain balance, lethargy and the inability to rise.

“Horse owners should isolate any sick horses and immediately contact their veterinarian,” the Agriculture Department advised.


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