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Equine Herpes Virus Confirmed at New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack

December 28, 2016

Baton Rouge, La., December 28, 2016 – The Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry (LDAF) has confirmed a case of Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack.


A two-year-old thoroughbred gelding reportedly developed a fever and neurological signs last week and was euthanized on December 26, 2016. Nasal swab and blood tests were confirmed positive for Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1) neurogenic strain at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab.


EHM is caused from a mutant strain of a common respiratory virus EHV-1.  Although not transmissible to humans, EHM is a severe, often deadly, transmissible neurological disease that is spread most commonly by direct horse-to-horse contact. The virus also can be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.


“While EHV-1 respiratory disease is fairly common, EHM is less common. A private veterinarian determined the extent of the horse’s illness and humanely euthanized it so the animal would not suffer with this highly contagious disease,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.


According to LDAF records, EHM was last detected at the racetrack in 2008.


Symptoms of the disease include fever, ocular or nasal discharge, limb swelling, abortion, and neurologic signs such as unsteady gait, urine dribbling, hind limb weakness, and inability to rise. There is no cure for the disease but symptoms may be treatable.


LDAF officials say no other horses at the Fair Grounds are showing symptoms of the disease, but the barn where the affected horse was housed is currently under quarantine by the Office of the State Veterinarian. Forty-six horses in the barn are being monitored twice daily for clinical signs such as fever (temperature over 101.5 F).

As a result of the EHM case, biosecurity measures at the barn and high traffic areas of the track have been ramped up. The measures include restricting personnel within the quarantined barn and hand, boot, and equipment sanitizing stations have been set up. An epidemiological investigation is underway by state and federal animal health officials as they continue to monitor the situation.


Horse owners are reminded to be vigilant at events where horses are congregated and should practice preventative measures such as vaccination, hand washing, and not sharing equipment. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian for more information.




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