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HETRA Horse Illness Update

As of Friday, July 7, 2017

HETRA Opens Barn July 10: We are happy and relieved to announce that HETRA’s barn is opening on Monday, July 10. Since getting the all clear to resume programming, we have been preparing the barn for sterilization. This morning several volunteers and our staff cleaned and reorganized the barn to prepare for the arrival of Parker Ag Innovations to apply Decon7 – the world’s most effective decontamination and mold remediation product on the market. It’s effective as an agricultural chemical tank cleaner and also kills 99.99999% of all bacteria, mold, viruses, fungi and spores. It is very safe and effective in all environments. This widely used system spans numerous industries such as our military, biosecurity, commercial laundry, first responders, healthcare, hospitality, and school systems. The Decon7 application is the final step in getting the barn back up and running.

Hundreds of people in our community came to our aid to provide a variety of support. We would like to recognize those who helped us through this very challenging time. We could not have done it without them. 

Donors and supporters:
Anonymous – Friends of HETRA (3)
Mutual of Omaha
Shahab Abdessalam
Barb Ackley
Michael Altschuld
Brigid Amos
Ryana Asbury
Laura Atkinson
Marie Bengford
Angie Boettner
John Bowen
Beena & Casey Burg
Megan Burg
Susie Cain
Roshelle Campbell
Benjamin Chandler
CAT Nebraska Machinery
Susan Chenoweth
Adria Christy
Lisa Wolford
Marie & Kevin Covi
Joleen David
Elizabeth Eisold
Autumn Ellisor
Robert Federspiel
Renee Fordyce-Boyer
Jane Fowler
Paul Fraynd
Joe Greve
Jessica & Adam Hatch
Samantha Heckart
Hubert Hickman
Brett Hill
Cathy Hirchert
Amanda Hoeneman
Andrew Hubbard
Kathryn Hubbell
Michelle Hulsing
Sara & Grant Janke
Mary Jo Kaiser
Eli Katona
Lara Katz
Brady Kerr
Sophia Key
Teresa & Daren Konda
Alys Lafler-Ratigan
Cory Lesley
Teresa Lutton
Stephanie Mahlin
Cindy & Scott Makinster
Joshua Melliger
Jon & Denise Meyers
Sue Morrison
Ken Neher
Dionne Newton
Chris & Pat O’Callaghan
Bill O’Neill
Shari Parys
Candyce Petersen
Jennifer Read
Amy Reiner
Tom Rosencrans
Cynthia Schauss
Ruth Schindler
Karen Sedoris
Robert Seward
Michelle Shkolnick
Diane Simmons, DVM
Lynn Smith
Robert Steele
Rachel Stein
George & Janae Svagera
Diana Ulmer
Sara Weiss
John Weremy
Lori White-Bliss and Sam Bliss
Wolfson Family
Phillip Wonder
Vickie Wrobleski
Adam & Sarah Yale
Sharon Yearsley
Richard Yost
Debbi Zweiback
Ronna Zylstra

Special Thank You:
Dr. Nicola Pusterla, UC Davis
Dr. Amy Cook, DVM- Veterinarian
Kohll’s Pharmacy & Homecare -114th and Dodge
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Mobile Animal Clinic
Christine Pleskac – Accounting 1909
Mike Teal

Thank you to Staff:
Edye Godden
Erin Bevington
Shelby Winnail
Willow Goodman
Sara Peacock
Rita Borgstadt
Jodi Teal
Lisa Shkolnick
Allison Harrison
AJ Basham
Chris O’Callaghan
Angie Drew

Thank You to our Volunteers:
Amanda H
Amy R
Anna T
Autumn E
Autumn G
Barb A
Barb M
Ben E
Callie S
Carissa H
Carol C
Caroline G
Caroline W
Cassidy F
Chelsea H
Cheyanne W
Cindy D
Connie W
Connor L
Dave S
Deborah P
Deborah B
Devon N
Georgia W
Hannah H
Jan D
Jan M
Jeff L
Julie L
Karen S
Kathy B
Kathy M
Katina C
Keryl B
Kyle B
Lacey O
Lisa H
Logan A
Madelyn P
Mark C
Matt B
Megan G
Mercie L
Michele L
Nicole B
Paul M
Peggy H
Sue S
Whitley C

Thank You to our Instructors:
Teresa K
Allison H
Katherine S
Lisa S

Updated 6/22/17 2:30 pm

Brief overview of the situation:   On June 11th HETRA had one horse (Honey) that experienced what was initially thought to be a mild illness.  This horse was initially quarantined and responded very quickly to treatment.  Because of the high fever samples were sent in for testing, on June 16th, to determine the nature of the illness which was determined to be Equine Coronavirus.  It is our understanding that this virus was not knows to be active in Nebraska.  During this time two additional horses showed symptoms of the illness and were immediately quarantined.  At that time we reached out to UC Davis for additional information on additional bio-security measures that we should be taking at our facility.  We were able to speak with Dr. Pusterla at UC Davis, on June 17th, and at that time instituted additional bio-security procedures on the “well side of the barn” as we were told that we could have asymptomatic carriers that were contagious but had no active symptoms of the disease in what we considered our well horse population.    Over the past 11 days we have had additional cases develop, most recently on June 20th. 

How did we get the virus:   This question has been asked by many and from what we understand from both our local veterinarian and UC Davis is that it is unlikely that we will ever know.  The virus is transmitted via fecal-oral route meaning that it could have come in on a horse that was asymptomatic at the time or could have come in on a person that had fecal material on their boots or shoes from an affected horse.  Because the disease can be asymptomatic in horses (20-40% of herd) and they can shed the disease for up to 21 days it is likely that however the virus came to our facility was unknown to either the horse or person.

Update on the Horses:  As of today, we have had a total of six horses with the illness which has been identified as Equine Coronavirus, 4 have tested positive for this virus and 2 are being treated as if they are positive due to their similar symptoms.   The HETRA horses that have become ill include Honey, Waldo, Lucy, Red and King, as well as one boarder horse.  Five of the six horses have been responding well to treatment with Honey, the first ill horse, already having two negative tests and is no longer carrying the virus.

Unfortunately, even with the diligent and extensive efforts of the staff and our veterinarian one of the horses that had contracted this virus died early in the morning on June 19th.  Lucy had been part of the HETRA program for one year and was loved by the staff, volunteers and participants that she has helped over the past year.  She will be truly missed and we are grateful to Shari for sharing this amazing horse with our program.   Our hearts are broken and we ask for prayers as we continue to treat the other ill horses and manage this virus. 

The most current test results show no additional positive horses.   Additional fecal samples have been taken to be tested in order to continue to monitor the situation.  We also continue to take regular temperatures on the horses to watch for any early signs of the illness. 

Current Plan: 

  • We are keeping the horses quarantined and our barn has been closed since June 12, and will remain closed until we get the all clear from our veterinarian. No horses have been moved to or from the property since the first horse became ill.
  • We are anticipating that we will be ready to start back to sessions on July 10 which will be the start of Course C with the possibility of offering some make up lessons beginning on July 5.  This will all be dependent on the status and progress of the horses and advice of our veterinarian. 
  • We are working around the clock with our veterinarian to monitor and manage the situation. We have designated staff who have been closely following the guidance and recommendations given. 
  • Currently the ill horses have 24 hour a day observation by staff.
  • We continue to follow tight bio-security measurements for all of the HETRA Herd including:
    • All individuals entering and exiting the barn wear rubber boots 
    • Bleach foot baths that are used between entering and exiting any horse stall as well as when entering and exiting the barn
    • Use of hand sanitizer between handling of horses
    • Disinfecting of stall forks between each stall that is cleaned as well as at the end of the day
    • No horse to horse contact at this time. Horses are being hand walked and lunged twice a day by designated staff and volunteers.
  • Ill horses are quarantined on the west side of the barn and are being cared for by different staff than the well horses.
  • We continue to take samples as requested by UC Davis on horses and send them in for analysis.
  • The veterinarians feel if we can go 7 days without an additional horse getting sick then we are on our way to the other side of this situation.

More about the Equine Coronavirus:  Below is information that we have learned via our veterinarian as well as Dr. Pusterla from UC Davis.  We highly recommend that you speak to your own veterinarian if you have additional questions or if your horse demonstrates any of the signs below.

Initial Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Off feed or decreased appetite
  • Colic like signs or symptoms

Other information:

  • It can affect 10-80% of your herd
  • There is no vaccination for this virus
  • 20-40% of your herd could be asymptomatic shedders
  • They can shed the disease for up to 21 days with the average being 4-10 days
  • Once a horse tests positive they should have two negative tests a few days apart to determine that they are no longer shedding
  • Mortality rate is 9-10%
  • Symptoms usually last 1-4 days and an outbreak can typically last for about 3 weeks.
  • The incubation period on average is 48-72 hours with a possibility of up to 96 hours.
  • Testing is done through a fresh fecal sample sent via overnight to one of the labs completing this type of testing.
  • This virus cannot be contracted by other species (i.e. Humans, Dogs, Cats etc).

How can you help:  We are so grateful to our staff, volunteers, families and community that have reached out to us to ask us how they can help.  We appreciate continued prayers and support for the HETRA horses and team that is caring for them.  As you can imagine this is taking both an emotional and financial toll on the organization and all involved.  The adverse effect of short-term session cancellations with substantially increased medical and bio-security expenses will be felt for months to come.  A donation page has been set up to assist with expenses and can be accessed through this link, or you can mail your donation to HETRA at 10130 S. 222nd St, Gretna, NE 68028: