BLM issues alert on equine influenza

KINGMAN - The best advice Darla Wright can give to the owners of unvaccinated domestic horses and burros right now is to stay away from Oatman.

Wright, an equine veterinarian at Wright Veterinary Services in Kingman, said the only way for unvaccinated animals to catch equine influenza is to be around it. Horses and burros that have been vaccinated are immune to it.

An equine influenza alert was issued Friday for the Kingman area by the Bureau of Land Management. The alert warned that domestic horses or burros that have been in the Oatman area recently may have been exposed to some infected wild burros.

Recent veterinary tests confirmed that two burros in the Oatman area have died from the illness, one on May 19 and another on May 21.

Wright said an update on the situation was released several days ago by the Office of the State Veterinarian, but she hasn't seen any local cases of the illness, which she called a common cold in horses and burros. Most of her equine clients have been vaccinated for it, she added.

"I don't think it's going to be a big problem for us because we're not really that close to Oatman and most people ride around here," said Wright. "The only way to prevent the spread of the illness is to stay away from infected animals and don't use common water troughs there."

The BLM also cautioned local horse and burro owners to limit contact with the wild burrows in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area, which includes Oatman. People also are advised not to feed wild burros or provide water to them, particularly near domestic animals.

The disease affects equines only and is not a threat to humans or other animals. The highly contagious respiratory disease, which occurs normally in horse and burro populations, can be spread through direct contact or sharing feeding or water troughs.

Equine influenza is generally not a fatal condition, according to the BLM, but if the horses or burros affected by it are not treated, they can contract other health complications that lead to death. Owners of domestic horses and burros who may have been in contact with infected wild burros should contact their veterinarians.

The BLM will continue monitoring conditions in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area, including Oatman. For more information on BLM's wild burros in Arizona, visit www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/whb.html or contact Roger Oyler at r2oyler@blm.gov or call (602) 417-9421.