Officials at Churchill Downs say a case of equine herpes virus (EHV-1) confirmed in one horse should have limited impact on the fall meet that begins Sunday, as long as the disease is contained.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture on Oct. 26 imposed a quarantine and ordered biosecurity measures on barn 47 after a 3-year-old trained by David Carroll tested positive for EHV-1. Under the quarantine, none of the 19 horses in Carroll’s section of the barn, including four that had been entered on the opening card, and none of 16 horses trained by Al Stall, Jr. stabled in the barn will be permitted to race or leave the barn. The quarantine period generally is 21 days.
“The results of tests administered so far have confirmed an equine herpes infection with neurologic involvement,” said Rusty Ford, equine programs manager for the office of Kentucky state veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout in a Churchill Downs release announcing the quarantine. “Those results suggest to us that we are dealing with an animal that has a low level of the virus in its system, and that works to our advantage. If that is the case, the infected horse would present a lesser risk of transmission of the virus to other horses in the barn or the general horse population.”
Symptoms of EHV-1 most commonly include fever and an upper respiratory infection. The symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite, nasal discharge, and a cough. In severe cases, horses can suffer a loss of coordination and an inability to stand. The illness can be fatal.
“If contained to that one barn we do not anticipate a problem (with the meet),” said John Asher, vice president of racing communications at Churchill. “Obviously, the other horses in that barn are being tested."
Asher said horses will be able to ship in and out of Churchill Downs during the meet, provided the biosecurity measures are followed. According to the state veterinarian’s office, these procedures include increased scrutiny of horses that arrive and depart from the barn area, with certificates of veterinary inspection required for all horses that enter and leave the stable area; a requirement that ship-in horses be allowed only into the track’s receiving barn or stakes barn; nightly disinfectant procedures in the receiving barn and stakes barn; daily disinfectant procedures on the starting gate; precautionary measures, including the wearing of latex gloves by the track’s horse identifier and starting gate crew; and daily disinfectant procedures in the paddock at the conclusion of each day’s racing.
“We do not anticipate any problems with horses shipping in and out as long as the precautions are followed,” Asher said.
As a result of an EHV-1 outbreak in May 2005, track officials, trainers, and veterinarians are more vigilant in identifying symptoms early and taking aggressive action to limit exposure, Asher said.
He said trainer Carroll acted quickly after stable personnel “did not like the way the horse was moving” before sending him to the track for morning exercise. A veterinarian was called and the horse was taken off the premises, with a subsequent test confirming the presence of EHV-1.
Asher said Ford’s indication that the horse has a low-level virus is reason for optimism that the case is isolated and that no other horses have been infected.
“It is one horse in one barn at this point,” Asher said.