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Quarantine lifted at racetrack

January 26, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said five thoroughbred racehorses that were directly exposed and initially tested positive in December for equine herpes virus were released from all quarantines and restrictions on January 21.

“Due to the cooperation between the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Racing Commission, and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Fair Grounds, the planned protocols were put in place early to contain potential spread,” Strain said. “We’re glad the safety measures proved effective.”
Biosecurity protocols were voluntarily initiated at Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots in New Orleans on Barns 4A and 4B December 26 after test results confirmed that a thoroughbred filly was infected with equine herpes virus (EHV-1).
The filly displayed unusual neurologic symptoms after a workout on December 23 and was shipped to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky the same day. Specialists at the Kentucky facility diagnosed the horse with EHV-1. The horse received treatment and improved.
Five of the 72 horses housed in Barns 4A and 4B with the infected filly initially tested positive for EHV-1 and were removed from the facility.
All 72 horses underwent nasal swabbing and blood testing. The recommended quarantine period for equine herpes virus is generally up to 21 days after potential exposure to the virus. The 66 that initially tested negative were quarantined in the barns until January 15, when subsequent testing showed no trace of the virus.
EHV-1 is a viral disease that can evolve into a neurological condition.
Experts in EHV-1 have indicated, however, that as many as five percent of horses will normally carry some variant of the virus in their system. Physical symptoms of the EHV-1 virus include fever, upper respiratory infection, nasal discharge, cough, lethargy and loss of appetite. The biosecurity protocols were previously established by the Veterinary Health Division of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and agreed to by the Louisiana Racing Commission and LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.
The protocols were designed to have minimal impact on Fair Grounds’ racing schedule.
In severe cases, horses can suffer a loss of coordination and an inability to stand. The illness can be fatal.
The Louisiana procedures are similar to those used by the Kentucky equine industry, which has controlled outbreaks of EHV-1 in recent years, Strain added.