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EHV-1 is a non-neuropathogenic virus strain that sometimes has neurological symptoms, Anderson said. The virus is not uncommon, and its symptoms generally include fever, respiratory illness or spontaneous abortion, according to the Board of Animal Health. But multiple cases of EHV-1 with added neurological signs are unusual.
Afflicted horses may have difficulty with their back legs, show poor coordination because of the virus’ effect on the spinal cord and have trouble urinating.
The animals spread the virus among themselves via nasal secretions and horse-to-horse contact. While humans are immune to the virus, they can spread it via their hands and clothes to the horses, as well as through grooming tools and water and feed buckets, according to the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. The virus can also be spread by sharing grooming tools, tack and water and feed buckets.
This virus doesn’t live outside the horse very long, Anderson said. Hot air and sunshine kill it quickly. “Hopefully the sun will shine and the weather will get better and this will quiet down,” Anderson said.
Juhl said she understands that people may be upset that fewer horses will be present, but wants them to know the schedule will still be full each day with high-quality entertainment.
“[We] just don’t want to discourage people from coming,” Juhl said. “It’s regrettable, but we’re still going to go on.”
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.