An outbreak of equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in the western United States and Canada prompted the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association to postpone a competition scheduled for this weekend in Prescott.
The event has been rescheduled for June 17-19.
Prescott Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Bryan Nolte said there's been one confirmed case of the contagious and potentially fatal virus in Yavapai County, with cases reported in nine western states.
Nolte, who specializes in equine and bovine reproduction, as well as lameness and performance, said while the equestrian community is wise to be cautious, there's no reason to overreact.
"One thing I want to stress is it's a concern, but it's not 'The sky is falling.' There's an extremely large amount of rumors and innuendo out there that do not follow a scientific model," he said.
Mike Mullaney, the general manager of the Yavapai Downs race track, and JC Trujillo, GM of the annual Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo, said they don't expect this outbreak to affect their operations.
Yavapai Downs opens its season on May 28. The week-long Prescott Rodeo is scheduled to start on June 28.
The virus can be spread horse-to-horse and person-to-horse, as well as through the air and via contaminated tack, feed or equipment, so Nolte recommends owners keep their horses separated, and handlers wash their hands thoroughly between contact with different horses.
"If the horse is exhibiting signs of fever, then there's reason or concern," Nolte added.
To that, owners are advised to check the rectal temperatures of their horses twice a day. If the temperature is higher than 102 degrees, they're to contact their vet immediately.
Dr. Laura Blanton of the Bakersfield (Calif.)Veterinary Hospital told the Baskerfield Californian newspaper Tuesday this particular strain of the virus generally begins with symptoms such as loss of tail tone, lack of coordination and urinary incontinence.
"We're recommending that people stay home, don't move your horses anywhere, don't go to any horse-related events for three to four weeks," she said.
Ten cases of the virus have been confirmed in California according to the Californian.
"This outbreak appears related to initial cases at a cutting horse show in Ogden Utah, which was held from April 29 - May 8," Dr. William Moyer, president of American Association of Equine Practitioners said in an e-mail to Dr. Steven Dow of the Prescott Animal Hospital released to The Daily Courier. "Horses at that event may have been exposed to this virus and subsequently spread the infection to other horses.
"While the true extent of this disease outbreak is uncertain, there is clearly a very significant elevated risk of EHM cases at this time. At this time control of the outbreak is critically dependent on biosecurity."