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Western Washington's equestrian community hunkers down over threat of disease

Gold Creek Equestrian Center is being sanitized.{ } (KOMO)

WOODINVILLE, Wash. -- The discovery of a potentially deadly virus at the Gold Creek Equestrian Center in Woodinville has caused fear and concern throughout the horse community across Western Washington and beyond.

Local arenas, horse shows and other events are being closed or canceled.

"We are going to hold off on having any horse shows out here for about two to three weeks," said Hal Gausman, manager of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

Gausman said they also plan to clean and sanitize the more 300 horse stalls on fairground property just to play it safe.

The Washington State Veterinarian’s Office issued a quarantine for the equestrian center mid-December, after horses who board on the property tested positive for the EHV-1 strain of equine herpes.

The state said seven horse at the center have died from the virus.

Stables all over Western Washington are on voluntary quarantine in an effort to keep their horses from coming into contact with the highly contagious strain.

Hannah Mueller, a veterinarian at Cedarbrook Veterinary Care in Snohomish, said it's the right approach.

"It’s the right thing to cancel events and to not takes horses in and out of farms and for everyone to just stay put for the next few weeks until the situation is under control, and it's safe,” she said.

Inside the barn at the equestrian center, a massive effort has been underway for days to disinfect the barn to stop the spread of the virus.

"Seeing horses sick and suffering has been very difficult," said Mike Adams, a co-owner of Gold Creek. “This has been a very hard time.”

Adams said only two horses remain sick with equine herpes at the center, adding their conditions are improving.

The virus, which cannot be transmitted to humans, is highly contagious among horses and leaves the animals in neurological distress.

The state said, at this point, the outbreak is contained to the Gold Creek Equestrian Center.

“We are not in any hurry to end the quarantine because we want to protect not only all of our horses here at Gold Creek, but all the horses in the community,” said Adams.

The outbreak of the disease EHV-1 can happen anywhere at any time.

The Washington State Veterinarian’s Office has praised the facility for the steps it has taken to keep the virus from spreading, and said they have done a phenomenal job with sanitation and caring for the ill horses.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the families who board at the facility cover veterinary costs.

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