Updated: 03/28/2014 10:52 PM
Created: 03/28/2014 10:48 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- A new virus outbreak affecting horses has many people across the area concerned for the safety of their animals.
In the past few weeks, several horses near the Twin Cities had to be euthanized because of exposure to the highly contagious equine herpes virus, also known as EHV-1.
Experts said the virus is especially dangerous because of how easily it can be transmitted.
"It's in the environment, it's in the population of horses,” said Dr. John Bengfort, a veterinarian at Bluff Country Equine in Winona. “Some people think there's possibly as many as 20 percent of the horses that have this in a dormant stage."
The virus spreads through direct contact between horses, but can also be transmitted through clothing and equipment.
"I was just at a horse show this weekend and I made sure all my clothes were clean, and you just kind of have to take that extra step,” said Paige Kelley, who owns two horses near Wells, MN.
Kelley sold her show horse last year, but is still concerned for her other horse Fiona, and new pony, Jace.
"We would be starting to show around this time of year and obviously if I was still showing it would be a concern,” Kelley said. “I probably wouldn't be going to any shows right now because I'd rather play it safe than sorry."
And many people are taking that very same approach.
Horse owners have been advised not to bring their horses to any facility where they could be exposed to the virus, and several local horse shows, including one scheduled in Winona this weekend, have been cancelled because of concerns about the virus.
The cancellations could potentially cost the industry thousands of dollars.
"The only thing you can do is just kind of quarantine them for now,” Kelley said. “Just no travel is the best thing to do at the moment."
It’s important to note that the virus does not affect humans or other animals.
The first symptoms include fever and respiratory issues, but can build into serious neurological problems. If you see those symptoms in your horses you should contact your veterinarian right away.