By Lynne Snierson
All operations at Suffolk Downs have returned to normal after tests came back negative on five horses who developed elevated temperatures after one horse stabled on the backside died from a case of equine herpes myelitis earlier this month.
Bio-security measures and protocols to stop the spread of the contagious disease, which can cause respiratory distress, neurological disease, and death, had been in place since June 9.
Track officials were notified of the latest test results by Dr. Lorraine O'Connor, the chief veterinary health officer for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. The incubation period of two to 10 days has passed.
"We got the good news and we are back to all normal operations. Everything is okay," said Sam Elliott, the track's vice president of racing June 28. "For as big of a problem as it was, we got a little lucky."
After the horse, who was trained by Jacqueline Falk, died, the rest of the horses in the same barn were placed in isolation and they were not allowed to train during regular hours or be entered to race. No horse on the grounds could ship to another track or farm. All horsemen were urged to monitor their charges for fever, often the first clinical sign of EHM.
As soon as EHM was diagnosed in the horse, who later died at the Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine's equine facility, the state department of agriculture notified other racing jurisdictions where horses from Suffolk might have already shipped.
"We are grateful for the cooperation of the Massachusetts department of agriculture, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the veterinary team and the trainers who worked to ensure this was an isolated incident" said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk's chief operating officer.
While the precautions were in place, the $25,000 Rise Jim Stakes scheduled for June 21 and the $25,000 Isadorable Stakes on June 28 were postponed. They have been rescheduled for July 5 and July 12, respectively, and both are restricted to Massachusetts-breds.