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OSU Veterinarians Respond To Case Of Virus Harmful To Horses, Alpacas, And Llamas

Rob Mitchell

Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is ceasing all medical and surgical services for horses, llamas, and alpacas for at least two weeks.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, it’s because they’ve isolated a horse infected with a potentially harmful virus. 

The horse was recently transported from Coos Bay, with an acute case of equine herpes virus. While naturally occurring and common in horses, a mutated, neurotropic form of the virus can cause severe problems if untreated.

Credit Oregon State University
Erica McKenzie, OSU Professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine.

Erica McKenzie is a professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine at OSU. 

“Occasionally horses that are infected with the wild type strain can develop neurologic signs," she says. 

"And horses infected with a mutated strain have a higher likelihood of showing neurologic signs: hind limb weakness, difficulty urinating, difficulty passing manure, and having a flaccid tail. 

"Occasionally shaking of legs or muscles.” 

Credit Else10 / Flickr.com

The virus can also cause abortions in pregnant mares. 

While not transmissible to people, humans can spread it on their hands, clothing, or utensils.  Other horses, as well as alpacas and llamas, are at risk.  For the latter group, the virus can cause blindness and damage to their central nervous system.

Copyright 2017, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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