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Wendy Reuer, Published June 11 2011

Horse virus won’t affect rodeo

HAWLEY, Minn. – Although a deadly viral outbreak in horses has been the cause of show and rodeo cancellations in the West, it hasn’t hampered the events of Hawley’s Rodeo Fest this week.

So far, no cases of the neurologic equine herpes virus-1 or EHV-1 have been reported in Minnesota or North Dakota. One case was found in South Dakota, which has veterinarians and horsemen watching the cycle closely.

Hawley native Katie Gefsrud rides in high school rodeos and competes at horse shows throughout the summer.

Tonight she and one of her seven horses will help kick off the rodeo as a flag carrier.

Gefsrud said she is aware of the virus but is confident her horses are safe in this area.

The strain is believed to have started at an April 28 through May 8 cutting event in Ogden, Utah, where 58 of the 84 confirmed cases originated.

Of those cases, 11 ­horses either died from or were euthanized due to the illness.

The virus can cause respiratory disease and neurological disease. The abortive form can cause mares to lose their pregnancies.

Vaccinations are available for the respiratory and abortive forms of EHV-1, but not for the neurologic form.

The disease can be spread between horses through the air or as an infected horse sheds. It is not spread to humans.

After the cutting event, the disease was thought to have traveled to at least 20 states, including Minnesota.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Oklahoma have reported infected horses, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Hawley Rodeo grounds are home to not only this week’s Rodeo Fest events but also to horse shows throughout the summer, drawing contestants from around the country.

Lisa Jetvig, Hawley clerk-treasurer, said the community club immediately contacted Minnesota veterinarians to make sure hosting events this summer would not pose a risk.

She said the rodeo was cleared and that no events have had to be rescheduled.

“We asked our folks, and our veterinarians were not concerned,” Jetvig said. “Those rodeo grounds are used the whole summer season. All of the contestants come from all over the United States.”

As far as tonight’s Professional Rodeo Championship Association rodeo, the PRCA has been monitoring the EHV-1 virus closely, said Cindy Schonholtz, PRCA director of industry outreach.

Schonholtz said the PRCA is relying on local venues to determine if any special precautions are needed, and Hawley was cleared.

If you go

What: Hawley Rodeo Fest

When: 9 a.m. Horseshoe Tournament

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Classic Car and Motorcycle Show by City Hall

Noon-4 p.m. Hawley JC Beef Feed

1 p.m. Pie and Ice Cream

2 p.m. Kiddie Parade

2:30 p.m. Classic Car Cruise

3 p.m. Rodeo Fest

7 p.m. PRCA Rodeo

9 p.m.-midnight Dance in the Dirt

Where: Hawley, Minn.

Info: www.hawley.govoffice.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530