The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has issued a letter stating that effective Jan. 1, 2011, any horse shipping to a track in the state must have a certificate showing it is negative for equine piroplasmosis.
In a letter to state track operators, E.S. (Rusty) Ford, equine programs manager for the ag department, said he and state veterinarian Robert Stout are instituting the tests as a result of uncertainty over the prevalence of the disease, which had previously been thought to be more prevalent in Quarter Horses.
Attached to the letter was a map showing the geographic distribution of 550 horses testing positive for EP in the United States since October 2009. According to the map, the largest number of cases had been in Texas, with 432, followed by New Mexico with 25. Most other major racing/breeding states had fewer than 10 EP positives, with only one reported in Kentucky.
In his letter, Ford said an incomplete list shows negative EP certificates are required for admittance to tracks and/or training facilities in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Equine piroplasmosis, a tick-borne non-contagious blood disease, results from infection by the protozoa Babesia caballi or Theileria equi (formerly Babesia equi). In most cases, piroplasmosis presents an acute infection, with fever, loss of appetite, malaise, labored or rapid respiration and congestion of the mucus membranes. In rare cases the disease can be fatal.
Earlier this year, four horses at Calder Casino & Race Course were euthanized after they tested positive for equine piroplasmosis.
Ford said the requirement that horses shipping onto grounds of a Kentucky track have a negative EP certificate would likely be in effect through the fall 2011 race meets.
"Effective January 1, 2011, no horse shall be allowed entry onto a Kentucky racetrack without verification that the required testing has been completed," Ford said. "The testing is not a requirement for racing, but simply qualifying the horse for access to the track."