Following the confirmed case of equine herpesvirus type-1 (EHV-1) in a horse that had been stabled at Calder earlier this month, the Miami track has taken action to avoid the spread of the potentially lethal airborne virus.
Effective as of Dec. 19, no new horses will be admitted into Calder's main barn area while the two barns where the infected horse was stabled have been placed under restrictions. Horses in those two barns will not be permitted to race until they have been cleared following testing and a period if isolation from the general horse population, according to Calder's track veterinarian, Dr. Mary Scollay.
The horses in those two barns have access to the track for training purposes after the remainder of the backstretch population has completed its training. Additionally, all horses stabled on the grounds will have rectal temperatures taken twice daily, with all readings of 102 or higher reported to the track vet.
"We anticipate clearance 12 days from now," Scollay said on Dec. 21, "assuming no fevers nor clinical diseases develop in that interval."
Scollay stressed that Calder does not have any active disease cases and is merely taking precautions because of a belief that there was exposure.
The restrictions on new horses being stabled at Calder are for a period of seven days, starting Dec. 19. "Race and go" horses--those stabled at Gulfstream, Payson Park, Palm Meadows, and Palm Beach Downs--are allowed to ship to Calder and are being housed in one of two dedicated receiving barns. The other barn is used for horses originating from Ocala and private farms.
Precautions have been put into place across the state at Tampa Bay Downs although track spokesman Margo Flynn said there was no reason to believe the track had any exposed horses and that there have been no symptoms demonstrated.
In recent days there have been eight confirmed cases in Florida of the highly communicable neurological form of the virus, seven in Wellington and one in Ocala. Additionally, Scollay said there are tests pending on 30-40 horses in Wellington, a horse rich community about 50 miles northwest of Calder, which has placed its own restrictions, including the state ordered quarantine of two barns.
Three of the eight horses tested positive for EHV-1 have died. A Calder-based horse who was hospitalized Dec. 1-6 at Palm Beach Equine Hospital for an unrelated matter was returned to Calder Dec. 6-11, then sent to a farm in Ocala where the neurological symptoms that characterize the disease became evident.
"There is a realistic expectation that this horse shed the virus while he was based at Calder," said Scollay, "But as of now we have had no horses show any symptoms."
Still, because of the incubation period for the disease that could last up to 21 days, she expected the restrictions at Calder to continue into early January.
In a Dec. 20 meeting with horsemen, Scollay and Dr. Rocky Bigbie of Fort Dodge Animal Health, a company that manufactures a vaccine for EHV-1, both stressed the importance of the role of humans in the disease's spread. While humans cannot contract EHV-1, they can easily transmit it from an infected horse to non-infected horses by touching and sharing equipment between animals.
"You have no control over the disease getting into your barn," Scollay said to a group numbering about 60. "You have total control over how it spreads."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated horses in the two restricted barns would be allowed to race. Bloodhorse.com regrets the error.