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Rabid horses reported, one attended equine competition

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

According to Conrad Nightingale, DVM, Bandera County rabies control officer, five cases of rabid horses has been confirmed in the State of Texas so far this year. "Last year, only eight cases were reported in the entire state," he noted.
Three of the infected horses were from Stephenville in Erath County, it was reported.
Nightingale urged all Bandera County horse owners to have their horses vaccinated against rabies. "All the horses tested positive for the skunk rabies variant," he said. "This is the time of the year when skunks are out and mating and horses are most likely to be exposed to the virus."
Nightingale also noted that across the state, more skunks have been testing positive for rabies than in past years.
Additionally, last week, Texas Department of State Health Services officials released a public health notice warning that a horse that had competed in shows in Belton and Lufkin last month had tested positive for rabies. People who attended the horse shows may have been exposed to the virus.
Approximately 150 people from Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi had attended the shows. Nightingale noted that show officials could not provide DSHS health officers with a list of those registering for the competitions. "This means they have to rely on newspapers and other media to get the word out," he said. "This is completely unacceptable."
The horse participated in events at the following two shows during its infectious period:
• March 19-21, American Southwest Texas Cutting Horse Association Show, Belton
• March 25-27, Lufkin Cutting Horse Association Show, Lufkin
While risk of transmission to humans appears to be low, DSHS personnel continue attempts to contact those who attended and participated in the shows about possible exposures. A viral illness, rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms develop.
Health officials are urging people who believe they have been exposed to the rabid horse to contact their health care provider or DSHS at 512-458-7455 to determine if preventive treatment is warranted.
People can be infected with the rabies virus if they are bitten or if the infected animal's saliva gets in an open wound or cut or in a person's eyes, nose or mouth. A series of post-exposure shots, if administered in time, can prevent rabies from developing.
According to a DSHS release, the horse involved was a 7-year-old bay quarter horse gelding with a faint star on its forehead. During the events, the horse was ridden and fed only by its owners and trainers and was stabled in a barn at each site.
Illness was first noticed in the horse March 31. It died Monday, April 4, and tested positive for rabies on Wednesday, April 6.
With the rapid rise in the incidence of rabies across the state, Nightingale took exception to the now widely accepted three-year rabies vaccine. "In hot weather climates, a yearly rabies vaccine should be mandatory for cats, dogs and horses," he said. "People need to be aware than the three-year vaccination program does not always protect their animals as it should."
Nightingale again advised all horse owners in the county to have their horses vaccinated against rabies or to have rabies boosters administered.
In February 2010, a horse in Medina was euthanised after a suspected rabies infection. The horse was later determined to have contracted the fatal disease from a skunk. In an interview at that time, Nightingale said, "This is the first time in 37 years, that I've seen a rabid horse in this county."
According to Carlee Evans, public health technician for the DSHS Zoonosis Control Program in Uvalde, no positive rabies cases have been reported in Bandera County to date.