Equine distemper outbreak linked to deaths of wild horses

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 19 2010 7:32 p.m. MDT

HERRIMAN — An outbreak of equine distemper has been linked to the deaths of 11 wild horses at the BLM's primary holding facility in Utah.

As a result of the deaths over the past two weeks, officials at the Salt Lake Regional Wild Horse & Burro Facility are limiting public access during periods when veterinary care is being administered to the horses.

Gus Warr, the state's wild horse and burro manager for the BLM, said six of the fatalities happened within the last 48 hours, with the bulk of the horses impacted being younger animals with weakened or immature immune systems.

Equine distemper is a common upper respiratory infection that occurs in horse populations, especially when confined in holding facilities. Highly contagious, the infection causes a lack of appetite, fever, listlessness and a distinct swelling of the lymph nodes in the throat area.

Because of the ability of the infection to spread so rapidly, all animals at the facility are under a BLM-imposed quarantine and will not be shipped out until several weeks after any clinical signs are documented, according to Warr.

The agency is also coordinating with the Utah State Veterinarian and following his recommendations to ensure any further spread or outbreak of the disease is contained on-site.

For information on access to the facility at this time, call 801-561-4632.

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