New Mexico Horse Tests Positive for Rabies

According to numerous news reports, the New Mexico Department of Health announced Aug. 18 that an unvaccinated New Mexico horse contracted rabies. The horse was from Eddy County, which is located in the Southeastern part of the state. The horse was euthanized as a result.

The reports also indicate that several people were exposed to the affected horse's saliva and will undergo testing to ensure they did not contract the virus.

Vaccinated horses have a significantly lower risk of contracting rabies than their unvaccinated counterparts. Horses that become infected with the rabies virus might show no clinical signs of disease for several days. However, during that time they can transmit the disease through saliva to other mammals, including humans.

When a horse contracts rabies the virus infects the central nervous system, causing brain disease and ultimately death. Clinical signs are extremely varied and can include colic, difficulty swallowing, depression, loss of appetite, a low-grade fever, lameness, incoordination, convulsions, increased sensitivity to being touched, abdominal pain, straining to urinate or defecate, odd behavioral changes, nervousness, irritability, muscle contractions, and death.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners includes the rabies vaccine in their four recommended core vaccinations for horses. Core vaccinations, as identified by the American Veterinary Medical Association, are vaccines "that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease. Core vaccines have clearly demonstrated efficacy and safety, and thus exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in the majority of patients."

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, News Editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado, and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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