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Article updated: 3/11/2013 10:42 PM

Horse virus outbreak puts suburban stables on guard

By Sara Hooker

A horse virus outbreak has some area stables on lockdown, while others are monitoring the situation closely after horses recently fell ill at a Gurnee stable.

The virus -- EHV-1 -- is a highly contagious equine illness that can cause neurological impairment and even death. It's particularly dangerous to foals, geriatric horses and can cause miscarriage, said Meggan Hill-McQueeney, president and COO of BraveHearts Theraputic Riding and Educational Center.

At BraveHearts' locations in Poplar Grove and Harvard, barns are under quarantine -- meaning no new horses are being brought into the facility.

The virus can be spread from horse to horse by humans when they put on halters and bridles, Hill-McQueeney said, so volunteers and staff members have been urged to be diligent about hand washing. Anyone with their own barn is being asked to change their clothes before coming into the BraveHearts facilities.

The Fox Valley Saddle Association closed down its stables after hearing of the outbreak. This note was posted on the FVSA's website:

"In light of the recent outbreak of the EHV-1 in Gurnee IL and the subsequent quarantine of that facility, the Fox Valley Saddle Association Board held an emergency meeting on Friday evening, March 8th, 2013. Based on the information available it was decided that it is in Fox Valley Saddle Association's and the horse community's best interest to lock down our facility until further notice ... The gate locks were changed on March 8th and neither the indoor nor the clubhouse will be in use. On our March 21st meeting we will determine if it is prudent to reopen the grounds."

An event this week at Gurnee-based Fields and Fences School of Horsemanship was rescheduled due to an outbreak at a nearby stable, according to its website.

Additional precautions being taken at BraveHearts includes taking horses' temperatures daily -- as fever is an early indicator of illness.

"The main thing is knowing your horses and what's typical for them and what's not typical," Hill-McQueeney said. "Be aware if they have a persistent cough or nasal discharge or if they do have a fever or are more lethargic. Those are things they definitely would want to watch carefully."

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