UPDATE: Equine Herpesvirus Confirmed at New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack

Baton Rouge, La., January 3, 2017 – Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry (LDAF) veterinarians continue to closely monitor horses at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack for Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). 

As of Monday, January 2, 2017, the New Orleans Fair Grounds is restricting movement at the racetrack and there continues to be enhanced biosecurity measures out of an abundance of caution. Restricted movement means no horses are allowed in or out of the Fair Grounds property unless authorized by the Racing Commission or the state veterinarian.  

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. 

Of the 49 barns at the Fair Grounds, three are quarantined where horses that showed symptoms were housed. Three horses are currently in isolation and under close observation.  

“This is a very fluid situation at this time. Because the disease is highly contagious, we are doing everything possible to keep the situation contained,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. “We are working in conjunction with the USDA Veterinary Services, Racing Commission and Fair Grounds.”   

EHM is caused from a mutated 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. 

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.  

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 barns and hand, boot, and equipment sanitizing stations have been set up. An epidemiological investigation continues by state and federal animal health officials as they 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. 

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