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Tevis Cup stays course for Oct. 8 as horse herpes virus pops up in California

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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With just more than two weeks to go before the Tevis Cup endurance ride, organizers are taking a cool, calm and collected approach to the return of a potentially fatal horse-herpes virus to California. The 100-mile ride through the Sierra to Auburn is expected to attract about 200 riders, even after the date was postponed from July 16 to Oct. 8 because of unusually heavy, late-season snow in the Sierra. Kate Riordan, Western States Trail Foundation spokesperson, said ride officials were treating the new reports of equine herpes virus in much the same way as similar reports in May. “It is a concern but not a huge one, we think,” Riordan said. “The horses have been diagnosed and contained. There are a few horses out of a million but because it’s a herpes virus it seems to get everyone more concerned.” Horses and riders are attracted to the grand daddy of endurance rides from throughout the United States and around the world. Steve Lyle, Department of Food and Agriculture spokesperson, said that his office is taking normal precautions but concerns are not at a crisis level. Typically, horses showing signs of the virus are quarantined for two weeks. Over the previous nine days, Lyle said one horse has died from the virus. Eight others were infected in Tuolumne County and two of the horses had been returned to San Joaquin County. During the May outbreak, the state department reported 12 cases. In May, Food and Agriculture traced a California outbreak to the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah. Lyle said the latest outbreak did not appear to be related to the Utah competition. The virus cannot be transmitted to humans but has the capacity to spread quickly among horse populations. Riordan said that the ride should take place under ideal weather conditions with horses and riders benefiting from cooler temperatures than what they would experience during the summer.