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2 often-fatal horse diseases confirmed in Minnesota

The diseases, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Equine Herpesvirus, were confirmed after horses had to be euthanized because of deteriorating health conditions.
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ST PAUL, Minn. — Officials with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health say horses in two Minnesota counties were found to have two different equine diseases.

The diseases were confirmed after the horses had to be euthanized because of their deteriorating health conditions.

"An Itasca County mare was confirmed to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which is spread to horses by mosquitoes," according to a news release from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.

Another mare, which is a female horse more than four years old, tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1). That horse was in Washington County.

"The similarity between these two equine diseases is they can both take on a neurologic form and impact horses very severely, sometimes leading to death," said Dr. Brian Hoefs, senior veterinarian of the equine program. "How the diseases are spread, how they're prevented and how we respond to them are different. Because of the varied threat to the health of your horse we strongly encourage routine checkups with your veterinarian."

The Washington County horse that had EHV-1 started showing mild loss of muscle control on Aug. 26, but it steadily got worse and the owner euthanized the animal the next day. A second horse on the farm was also put down by the owner the following week because it was displaying similar signs, but it was not tested.

Because both horses attended horse shows at the Washington County Fairgrounds on Aug. 14, state officials notified owners and many others about the confirmed disease as a precaution.

The Itasca County horse with EEE was euthanized on Aug. 16 after showing symptoms of the neurologic disease. The symptoms include loss of muscle control, inability to stand and eventually convulsions.

"Although thought to be rare, EEE can cause fatal infections in horses and people. The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitos and birds, while horses are a "dead end host" and unable to transmit the disease to other horses or people. In horses, EEE is fatal in more than 90-percent of cases, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health news release.

Board officials recommend all horse owners get their animals vaccinated, especially in the areas where the diseases were confirmed.

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