Equine herpes outbreak has horse owners on alert

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A recent outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus infections has horse
owners across the country on edge. The most recent cases were
reported in Colorado and now in Nevada.
A recent outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus infections has horse owners across the country on edge. The most recent cases were reported in Colorado and now in Nevada.

Equine Herpes (EHV-1) is a highly contagious disease that causes respiratory illness (cough and nasal discharge). But it can also cause abortion in mares, and paralysis in its neurologic form. Early symptoms include nasal discharge, fever, hind-leg weakness and decreased coordination. Severely infected horses that can no longer stand must be euthanized. It can be treated with antiviral medications, but these aren’t effective in many cases.

A large number of horses that had been at a competition in Utah fell ill recently and several had to be euthanized. Cutting-horse competitions scheduled in nine states were canceled and veterinary teaching hospitals in Washington State and Colorado State quarantined their facilities. The most recent case was reported in Nevada. The good news is that fewer cases have been reported in recent days. Veterinarians hope this indicates that the outbreak is dying down.

Herpes is an aggressive disease that is spread through nasal secretions, especially by nose-to-nose contact when horses nuzzle each other. Horses can’t infect humans, but people can transmit the virus between animals through contaminated tack and clothing. There is a vaccine but it seems to protect only against the respiratory form of herpes.

If you have a horse and are planning to travel in the near future, check with your veterinarian about what precautions might be necessary.


We just planted six pyracantha bushes along our backyard split rail fence. A friend said she thought the berries were poisonous to dogs. I have two Jack Russell terriers and our 15-year-old loved to eat blueberries and blackberries off the bushes when we lived in Canada. My 5-year-old hasn’t seen a berry bush so I don’t know how he will react. Are pyracanthas dangerous? Do I need to dig them out and transplant them to an area where the dogs can’t eat them?


Pyracantha berries contain cyanide, but there are two factors that make these plants less dangerous than many people think. First, the concentration of cyanide in the berries is very, very low. Your little guys would have to eat a very large number of this “fruit” to suffer cyanide poisoning. Second, these berries are stomach irritants. They create a nasty gastroenteritis, inflammation of the stomach and intestines that leads quickly to vomit and regurgitation. The result is that the cyanide in the berries cannot be absorbed at levels high enough to be dangerous. (By the way, pyracantha berries are also skin irritants and cause a rash on many dogs who try to ingest them.)

So the bottom line is this: you should be safe leaving the pyracantha in your yard. Many people have this as part of their landscaping and their dogs learn to stay away from it when they realize it makes them ill. If your terriers were to repeatedly eat the berries, they could develop other secondary stomach problems (gastric ulcers, etc). That scenario is possible, but very unlikely. But don’t worry about the cyanide scare your neighbor gave you.


Our cat recently dragged a dead crow onto our back porch. This is a huge bird, and I didn’t think Rex was much of a hunter. We think maybe this bird was already sick or dying when our kitty found him. If so, should we worry about Rex?


Crows are not captured by cats very often so I wonder if this bird may have been unhealthy. Because of the presence of West Nile Virus in this area, it’s important that you call Santa Clara Vector Control. They will pick up the bird and test it for the virus. They can be reached at (408) 918-4770 or (800) 675-1155.

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