by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry
Baton Rouge, La. – Late Thursday afternoon, the entire New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack facility was placed under quarantine by State Veterinarian Dr. Brent Robbins, D.V.M. This is the result of the spread of the Equine Herpes Virus.
“This quarantine is being implemented out of an abundance of caution as we work to contain the disease. While there has been restricted movement of horses at the racetrack, at this point, we cannot risk horses possibly leaving the Fair Grounds while some are still testing positive for the virus,” said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “This quarantine is being done for the health and safety of all horses in the state and to protect the horse racing industry. This virus is highly contagious and we still have horses showing symptoms of illness. We must do everything possible to contain this virus and continue testing until all horses are cleared.”
As of Thursday, January 12, 2017, nine horses remain in isolation. Last month, a two-year-old thoroughbred gelding reportedly developed a fever and neurological signs and was humanely euthanized on December 26, 2016. Nasal swab and blood tests were confirmed positive for Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1) neuropathogenic strain at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab.
While this virus is not transmissible to humans, it can be severe in horses, especially the neuropathogenic strain which is more likely to progress to the neurologic disease known as Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). The virus is spread most commonly by direct horse-to-horse contact. It can also be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.
Horses in barns not exposed to EHV-1 will be allowed to continue racing. Exposed horses under quarantine are monitored for at least 14 days and tested twice for EHV-1. Any horses that test positive for the disease, are placed in isolation for further observation and testing.
Sixty-five ship-in (day race) horses that were possibly exposed to an EHV-1 positive horse in the receiving barn have been traced, placed in isolation at undisclosed locations and are being tested.
The LDAF continues to closely work with the USDA Veterinary Services, Racing Commission, and Fair Grounds officials as well as horse owners and trainers.
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.
According to LDAF records, EHM was last detected at the racetrack in 2008.