Oregon State University Veterinarians Respond To Case Of Virus Harmful To Horses, Llamas, And Alpaca

Nov 10, 2017

A horse was recently transported from Coos Bay with an acute case of equine herpes virus. While naturally occurring and common in horses, a mutated, neurotropic form of the virus can cause severe problems if untreated.

Erica McKenzie is a professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine at OSU.

“Occasionally horses that are infected with the wild type strain can develop neurologic signs," McKenzie said. "And horses infected with a mutated strain have a higher likelihood of showing neurologic signs. Hind limb weakness, difficulty urinating, difficulty passing manure, and having a flaccid tail. Occasionally horses will show signs of dullness or leaning, or shaking of legs or muscles.”

The virus can also cause abortions in pregnant mares. While not transmissible to people, humans can spread it on their hands, clothing, or utensils. Other horses, as well as alpacas and llamas, are at risk. For the latter group, the virus can cause blindness and damage to their central nervous system.