Florida Officials Optimistic EHV-1 is Under Control

By Erin Ryder

Florida racetrack and state officials said they’re cautiously optimistic the current outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1 is over, with no new cases detected.

A sixth Florida horse died Dec. 29. That horse was part of a group already under state-imposed quarantine.

On Dec. 26, track officials at Calder Race Course lifted restrictions on horses shipping there, though two barns are still under movement restrictions pending negative EHV-1 test results. The test samples were collected late the week of Dec. 24 but results were delayed because of the holiday. Dr. Mary Scollay, track veterinarian for Calder and nearby Gulfstream Park, said she anticipates receiving those results Jan. 3.

“Those horses have been clinically normal, and we do not anticipate anything but good news there,” Scollay said. “We’re comfortable this outbreak is under control, and hopefully we’ve got smooth sailing for a while.”

A racehorse from Calder was exposed to the virus while visiting an equine hospital in Wellington, Fla., for an unrelated illness. It returned to Calder and stayed for five days before shipping to Ocala. Once in Ocala, it began showing neurologic signs and was confirmed positive for EHV-1. Horses at Calder were last exposed to the horse Dec. 11.

Payson Park Training Center remains under state-imposed quarantine after a horse there died Dec. 22 and was confirmed positive for EHV-1. Scollay said she expects some horses--those considered to be at low risk--to be released Jan. 5. Gulfstream is accepting entries for those horses for the races of Jan. 6. There are no virus restrictions at Gulfstream.

In California, Golden Gate Fields, Bay Meadows, and Pleasanton’s Alameda County Fairgrounds are under quarantine after a 3-year-old gelding tested positive for EHV-1 Dec. 29.

EHV-1 is a form of herpesvirus that can cause fevers and neurologic signs that range from incoordination and weakness in the hind limbs to paralysis. Six horses in Florida and one in California have died.

Precautions are necessary because EHV-1 is highly contagious and can spread through the air. It can also be passed on shared tack and barn equipment, as well as human hands and clothing, making tight biosecurity essential to stop it from spreading.