Barrington horse farms close up in wake of horse herpes virus outbreak
BY BRIDGET O’SHEA | email@example.com March 18, 2013 7:28PM
Octavio Hurta looks into an empty horse stall that has already been cleaned and disinfected at the Barrington Hills Riding Center. It is a proactive approach to prevent the spread of an outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus, which has not reached the ridin
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:17AM
BARRINGTON — A recent outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1 in Gurnee has Barrington area horse farms and riding facilities temporarily closed as a precautionary measure.
Three horses in Gurnee were euthanized in the last two weeks after becoming infected with the virus.
“From what we’ve heard from our customers, everyone’s pretty much on lockdown,” said Jim Konecny, owner of Lake Barrington Feed and Supply.
Due to the virus, Konecny has set up a footbath in his store with disinfectant that customers must use before entering.
“We’re aware of it and we’re doing what we can to prevent further outbreaks,” he said.
Fred McMorris, president of the Barrington Hills Park District, reported that the Park Board decided to temporarily close its riding center in response to the outbreak as well. Although no horses are kept overnight at the riding center, McMorris said the district is erring on the side of caution.
“This is very likely an isolated incident,” McMorris said of the Gurnee outbreak. “But because of the highly contagious nature of the virus, a lot of places are shutting down. We thought it was in the best interest of the community to temporarily close the center.”
Chris Downs, a veterinarian at Merritt & Associates Equine Hospital in Wauconda, explained that the airborne, highly contagious virus enters through the respiratory system and causes an increase in nasal discharge. Downs added that many horses that are infected with the respiratory form can be treated. A rare but more severe form, however, begins with respiratory symptoms and later travels to the brain, causing neurological impairment.
Difficulty with urination and bowel movements are signs of the neurological form of the virus.
“The horses will become very ataxic and have difficulty walking or standing,” said Downs.
Since horses can shed the virus in times of high stress, Downs recommended that horse owners use caution in moving horses in and out of facilities. There is no vaccine for the neurological form.
“The single best thing for horse owners to do is practice good hygiene,” said Downs.
Hand-washing and disinfecting with a water and bleach mixture is enough to kill the virus, he said.
“I would really stress the bio-security,” he said.
Downs said he’s noted an increase in cases across the country in recent years, but said he attributes the uptick to wider knowledge of the virus — not an increase in the virus itself.
“I think we as veterinarians are better trained to detect it,” he said.
Joe Carper, manager at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, a Thoroughbred breeding and foaling farm in Barrington, said he and his staff have been adhering to strict guidelines. He added that he is not accepting any new horses.
“There’s minimal movement and no horses that come and go,” said Carper. “Everyone’s pretty much isolated.”
The drastic measures have been necessary, Carper said, even though they have negatively impacted the farm’s breeding business.
Jennifer Rousseau, a trainer at Tudor Oaks Farm in Barrington Hills, said her facility also has limited the amount of horses in and out of the farm. Although Tudor Oaks was recently forced to cancel its participation in an upcoming horse show, Rousseau said the farm plans to resume normal operations very soon.
“We don’t see any risk of transmission from that outbreak,” she said. “We are now confident that the attending veterinarians have it isolated and quarantined.”