FG Barn Under Quarantine After Horse Tests Positive for EHV1

A barn in Fair Grounds' stable area is under a Louisiana State Racing Commission quarantine after test results confirmed that a horse in that barn was infected with equine herpes virus ("EHV1").

Officials with the LSRC have ordered biosecurity measures in place in Barns 4A and 4B, which are under the same roof and house horses trained by Dallas Stewart and Neil Howard.  The quarantine of the barns was ordered after a Thoroughbred trained by Stewart displayed symptoms of equine herpes on Tuesday.  That horse was transported immediately from Fair Grounds and is now under observation at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., where the diagnosis was confirmed on Wednesday.

The quarantine order affects 44 horses in Stewart's section of the barn and 27 horses under Howard's care.

"The horse is doing well in Kentucky and starting to show some improvement," said Tom V. David, D.V.M., equine medical director for the LSRC. "We remain cautious because we still do not have enough information. Until we get more test results on the horses in that barn, we don't know the total extent."

Dr. David said the implementation of the quarantine and its associated biosecurity measures was ordered in an effort to contain and isolate any possible EHV1 cases to that barn and prevent any spread of the virus among the horse population at Fair Grounds.

Symptoms of equine herpes virus most commonly include fever and an upper respiratory infection.  The symptoms can also include lethargy, loss of appetite, a nasal discharge and a cough.  In severe cases, horses can suffer a loss of coordination and an inability to stand and the illness can be fatal.

The disease is a virus, so it can be spread through the air when a horse coughs - although studies on the virus indicate that it is very short-lived and is susceptible to disinfectants.  The maximum extent of the airborne transmission of the virus is thought to 35 feet.  Horses may also contract the disease if they come in contact with the clothing of a person who has worked with an infected horse, the tack and equipment worn by an infected horse, or a shared food and water source. 

Dr. David said the disease poses no danger to humans.

The recommended quarantine period is generally up to 21 days after potential exposure to the virus.  The incubation period for the disease ranges from two to 10 days.  Under the quarantine order, horses may not be moved in or out of those barns until state agriculture officials clear them to do so. 

The quarantine is not expected to have a negative impact on Fair Grounds' season, which began Nov. 14 and continues through March 29, as horses will continue to be permitted to ship in and out of the track to race.

To accommodate the quarantined horses, training hours have been changed effective Saturday. Regular training hours will be 30 minutes earlier, from 5:30-9:30 a.m., with a renovation break from 7:30-8 a.m. Horses from Stewart and Howard's stables will be allowed to train from 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Additional biosecurity measures have been put in place to guard against the introduction of the virus to the track's horse population.  Those procedures include:

  • Increased scrutiny of horses that arrive and depart from Fair Grounds' barn area, with certificates of veterinary inspection required for all horses that enter the stable area;
  • A requirement that horses that ship in to compete be allowed only into the track's Receiving Barn;
  • Nightly disinfectant procedures in the Receiving Barn;
  • Daily disinfectant procedures on the starting gate;
  • The track's horse identifier and starting gate crew will be required to use latex gloves and follow other recommended disinfectant procedures for their work areas, equipment and practices;
  • And daily disinfectant procedures in the paddock following the conclusion of each day's racing.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.