Potential Outbreak Of Horse Virus Traced To Colorado Horse

An outbreak of an untreatable viral disease in horses is being blamed on one horse from Colorado. Other horses across the country may have been exposed.    

Equine infectious anemia is a virus most commonly spread by blood-sucking insects like horse and deer flies. It can cause high fever, weight loss, anemia, and even death in horses, mules, and donkeys.

Colorado state veterinarian, Keith Roehr, said horses sold across state lines are supposed to have documents that show they are negative for the virus. But he said it’s been difficult to track this current potential outbreak because most of the horses sold from the original infection site were rescue horses, which are often purchased and moved across state lines without a certificate of veterinary inspection or other required documents.

So far, only the original horse is confirmed to have had the virus and it has since been euthanized. But Roehr said about 240 horses in 20 other states, including Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, may have been exposed.

Roehr said they are still trying to track them all down, adding that the disease isn’t highly infectious, so they expect the number of infected horses to be low. Since there’s no vaccine and no cure, infected animals have to be quarantined for life or euthanized.

If horse owners have any concerns or questions about their own animals, Roehr says they can call their local or state veterinarian for more information.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.