The uncommon but serious virus, EHV-1, was discovered in a horse at Gold Creek Equestrian Center. The virus affects the central nervous system and can cause an unsteady gait, the inability to urinate, a droopy tail and the inability to stand.
People in the Eastside horse community are being vigilant after a potentially deadly form of equine herpes was discovered in a number of horses at Gold Creek Equestrian Center in Woodinville.
Brian Joseph, the state veterinarian, said the outbreak was reported on Dec. 13, and since then, seven horses have been euthanized after contracting it.
The equestrian center has been placed under quarantine, he said, and a number of nearby horse ranches are on voluntary quarantine. That means no horse riding, training or transporting animals in or out of the facilities.
There are several herpes viruses that affect horses, according to Joseph. The more common one causes respiratory distress similar to a cold. The less common but more serious one, EHV-1, was discovered in a horse at Gold Creek. It affects the central nervous system and can cause an unsteady gait, the inability to urinate, a droopy tail and the inability to stand.
There is no vaccine or cure, but some horses who contract the virus recover with supportive care, he said. Others, generally the older or more susceptible animals, may not fare as well.
The virus — which cannot be contracted by humans — is not thought to be a sexually transmitted disease but is instead spread easily through an animal’s eye and nose secretions, or by people who have not disinfected their hands, boots or other equipment, Joseph said.
He praised the owners of Gold Creek for their vigorous efforts to contain the virus.
“My heart goes out to them,” he said. “They are just exhausted and working around the clock to prevent the further spread of the virus, and so far have been very successful.”
The owners of Gold Creek could not be reached for comment, but Keli Covin, the owner of nearby 5 C Farms where 40 horses are boarded, said that everyone in the horse community is pulling for the Gold Creek folks.
She said that people in the community have been coming by with donations and products, including hazmat suits, bleach and more.
“The whole horse community is very concerned, of course, and this has kept us on our toes,” she said. “We’re worried and scared, but at the same time our hearts are just breaking for them. It’s been devastating for them emotionally and financially, but they’ve done a fabulous job trying to keep it in place,” Covin said.
Joseph said the efforts of the Gold Creek owners appear to be working, and that there have been no new reported cases.
“There’s no reason,” he said, “to believe that this disease will ever reoccur in these horses or at this facility.”