A quarantine at Dixie Stampede and UT Equine Hospital has horse owners in East Tennessee keeping a watchful eye on their animals
Dozens of horses are quarantined in East Tennessee after a virus infected a Dixie Stampede performance horse. Veterinarians at the University of Tennessee Vet School treated the animal and said the quarantine should prevent other horses from spreading the highly contagious bug.
According to vets, the Dixie's "Sandy Joe" contracted Equine Herpes Virus type 1, which is a common virus among horses. Dr. Carla Sommardahl said EHV usually remains a respiratory virus, but in some cases, like this, it becomes neurological.
"It is just a common virus that is in horses worldwide," she said.
UT vets were unable to cure Sandy Joe and later euthanized the animal. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, horses at Dixie Stampede and the UT Equine Hospital are under quarantine for two weeks.
"We have sort of shut down. No horses in, no horses out," said Dr. Sommerdahl. "So the horses that were here when we did get the positive results... are staying during the quarantine."
Dr. Sommerdahl said none of the less than a dozen other horses at UT had direct contact with Sandy Joe. As of Monday afternoon, no other cases of the virus have been reported.
A spokesman for Dixie Stampede said more than 40 horses are quarantined there. One did exhibit an elevated temperature, but has shown no signs of increased illness.
As a precaution, vets notified horse owners who may have been treated at the hospital during the time Sandy Joe was there. Word quickly spread among the horse community.
At Horse Haven, a rescue operation in West Knox County, Executive Director Nina Margetson has already checked her horses.
"Taking their temperature twice a day to look for any spike in temperature. Basically, nothing more than what a normal horse owner should do if they see any signs of something wrong with their horse," said Margetson.
Beyond animal check-ups she is taking extra caution with her barn manager, who travels between stables.
"She is completely sanitized before she comes here. And when she leaves she does the same thing going back to her barn to stay on the safe side," Margetson said.
Veterinarians stress EHV is a species-specific virus that will not infect humans. However, people can transmit the virus from horse to horse by touching the animals.