State and federal officials will round up 1,200 to 1,500 wild horses in the Uintah Basin during the next few weeks in an attempt to stop the spread of a deadly disease.
Dr. Michael R. Marshall, state veterinarian, said a "substantial epidemic" of equine infectious anemia has been found in horses gathered by the Ute Indian Nation."We have never had this size of a problem," Marshall said Monday. "We test about 7,000 horses a year in Utah, and we might get one or two (cases of the disease) per year. This year they have gathered 600 horses so far, and 15 percent of those Ute mustang ponies (tested) positive."
Equine infectious anemia, also known as swamp fever, mountain fever, slow fever and Coggins disease, is contagious only to horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. It is not transmittable to other livestock or to humans, according to a Utah Department of Agriculture and Food press release.
The UDAF release said it will work with the Bureau of Land Management, the Ute Indian Nation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent the spread of the disease from the wild horses to domestic horses in the Uintah Basin.
Marshall said the different agencies plan to round up wild horses and test their blood for the viral disease.
"If they're negative, then they'll be turned back out," he said. "If they're positive, they'll be destroyed."
Marshall said the disease is transmitted by biting insects, like horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes.
"There's no treatment once you get it," he said. "You either watch (the horses) die, or they become a permanent carrier in a weakened state, but live, and then they spread the disease to other horses through the biting insects."
Horse owners who live in the area around Roosevelt, Vernal and Duchesne should have their horses checked, he said, but testing probably is not necessary in other parts of the state.
Marshall also said people should not let their horses mingle with any wild horses.
"And if people intend to buy a wild horse, either from the BLM or the Ute Nation, they should certainly make sure it's tested negative, and then re-test it again in six months to make sure nothing has been incubating," he said.