Deadly virus sickens horses in California county

An outbreak of a highly contagious and possibly fatal virus in horses that started at a competition in Utah has claimed the life of at least one horse in California and one in Utah, and sickened at least four in Stanislaus County.

The equine herpes-1 infection showed up first at the National Cutting Horse Association's Western National Championships, held in Ogden, Utah, from April 30 to May 8. One of the big money winners at the show, a 7-year-old horse, was diagnosed May 9 with the virus in Colorado. Of the 500 horses at the event, at least two were positive for the virus, and one died. Fifty-four of the competitors were from California.

Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said one horse in California was euthanized at a cutting horse event May 13 in Bakersfield. The horse had been to the Utah event and had severe neurological signs.

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