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Nine Horses Dead at University of Findlay Facility in Ohio

A suspected viral outbreak at the University of Findlay's equestrian complex has killed nine prompting the university to quarantine the facility, and another horse complex it also owns. The death toll among the valuable horses at the County Road 201 facility was expected to rise. All local horse owners are also being advised to quarantine their own barns until the exact cause of the sickness is known -- and known to be contained.

It is believed that nearly all of the 140 horses at the James L. Child, Jr. Equestrian Complex on County Road 201 are most likely infected with the virus. Veterinarians for the University of Findlay said they suspect the horses are dying of equine herpes virus, but are still waiting for autopsy and culture results from Ohio State University.

The equine herpes virus is not a threat to humans or other animals. Retired veterinarian C.R. Beckett, the chairman of the University of Findlay's Board of Trustees, said the carnage on County Road 201 is "devastating beyond belief and description." Beckett said in his 35 years of equestrian medicine, he has never seen anything like this. If it is the equine herpes virus, Beckett said, it is a variant, or mutant strain, that is attacking the central nervous system of the horses. He said the equine herpes virus normally affects a horse's respiratory system.

Once the horses start showing symptoms, which mimic the flu, many die within hours, Beckett said. He said the virus was most likely brought into the complex by a horse that carried the disease but was immune to it. The complex on County Road 201 houses mostly European Warm Bloods. They range in age from two years to 20 years, and are owned by UF students, the university and others who bring their horses to the facility for training.

Dr. Greg Hass, a veterinarian for the University of Findlay, said the virus is most likely spread from horse to horse through respiratory secretions. He said those who are working with horses should wash their hands and clothes completely and disinfect their boots. Equipment should not be shared between horses.

The university has moved all classes out of the County Road 201 equestrian complex until further notice. English riding students and western riding students will also be separated during their classroom studies, as an added precaution in making sure the virus doesn't spread to the western riding facility.

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