Copyright 2006, Walking Horse Report


The State of Tennessee Department of Health, Communicable and Environmental Disease Services has released the following letter to the Walking Horse Report.


September 10, 2006


Dear Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration attendee,


You are receiving this letter to notify you about a confirmed case of rabies in a horse stabled on the grounds during the 2006 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.  We received your name and address from Celebration officials.  If persons were bitten or came in contact with saliva from this horse (described below) from August 23-31, 2006, while attending the Celebration, they may have been exposed to rabies and are requested to contact the Tennessee Department of Health for an assessment.  Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials do not currently consider other horses present to be at risk unless they were bitten by the infected horse or had gross contamination of a wound or mucous membranes with the infected horse’s saliva.


Rabies is a viral infection that nearly always results in fatal encephalitis (brain infection).  Humans may be exposed to rabies primarily thought the bite of a rabid animal or when the virus is introduced into fresh open cuts in the skin or onto mucous membranes such as eyes, mouth or nose from the saliva of a rabid animal.  Attending an event where a rabid animal was present, petting a rabid animal or contact with the blood, urine or feces of a rabid animal do not constitute a risk for transmission.  If a person is exposed to rabies, a series of shots (post-exposure prophylaxis) is highly effective in preventing the disease.


The horse that developed rabies was from Waynesville, Missouri and was infected with a bat-variant of the rabies virus.  The horse was likely infected due to random contact with a bat before coming to Tennessee for the Celebration.  The horse was not involved in the Celebration competition, was a 3-year old gelding (neutered male horse) buckskin (cream to tan) in color with a black mane and tail.  “Buck” or “Bucky” was described as “small” 14 hands or 56 inches tall at the withers (i.e., the highest are of the shoulders at the base of the neck).  He was stabled on the north side of Barn 50 in Stall # 12, the third stall from the west end.  A bright blue curtain labeled “4J Land and Cattle Company” covered the outside porch of the barn.  The potential for contact by the public was very limited when the horse was in its stall, but there may have been opportunity for public contact when the horse was taken for rides on the Celebration grounds.  The horse was first noted to be ill on August 28.  Over the next few days, the horse developed severe nervous system signs and, as a result, was euthanized.  Persons directly involved in the care of the horse are being assessed for possible rabies exposure and the need for rabies post-exposure treatment.


If you or someone else was bitten by a horse, had contamination of a fresh open wound with saliva from a horse, or had saliva from a horse come in contact with eyes, nose, mouth or other mucous membranes, personnel are available to answer additional questions at the Tennessee Department of Health Public Information Line: 1-866-355-6129.


Thank You,


John R. Dunn, DVM, PhD


Medical Epidemiologist

Tennessee Department of Health

Communicable and Environmental Disease Services

Nashville, TN  37247-4911