Oregon State University's veterinary teaching hospital says that a horse from eastern Oregon has been diagnosed with equine flu.

The four-year-old quarter horse mare, which recently arrived in Oregon from Texas, has been placed in isolation at the hospital and is being treated, according to a university press release.

OSU veterinary clinicians say the flu is highly contagious among horses, but is not transferable to humans or other animal species.

While typically not fatal, the virus can be dangerous to foals, elderly and pregnant horses, said Keith Poulsen, an internal medicine specialist at the Lois Bate Acheson Veterinary Hospital in OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The virus can be spread by direct contact with nasal discharge or from coughing, Poulsen said.

The Large Animal Internal Medicine and Surgery Services program at OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is working with the state veterinarian's office to inform veterinarians and horse owners about the disease, according to a university commincations officer.

Poulsen said the first clinical sign in horses is typically a fever, followed by coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. Horses with a fever of greater than 102.5 degrees should be seen by a veterinarian, he said. Horse owners also should consult their veterinarians about vaccinations, he said.

Infected horses can transmit the virus for up to 10 days after incubation. Horses that show signs of the disease should be isolated from other horses for 10 days after clinical signs first appear, the university said.

"The good news is that many disinfectants can easily kill the equine influenza virus, and thoroughly cleaning stalls and equipment can help prevent the virus from spreading," Poulsen said.

The Morrow County horse was purchased at a sale in Hermiston last weekend, the university said. Several horses that were in close contact with it also have developed signs of illness, although they have not been diagnosed with equine influenza virus, officials say.

The infected horse will remain at OSU in isolation until it fully recovers, the university said.

As an added precaution, the OSU hospital is only accepting equine patients requiring emergency treatment until Feb. 27. Horses being referred for elective surgery, lameness or non-emergency conditions will be delayed until after Wednesday.

--Mitch Lies

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