Last Hold Orders Due to Virus Lifted in Maryland

(from Maryland Jockey Club release)
The Maryland Department of Agriculture lifted the hold orders on the detention barn at Pimlico Race Course and an isolated barn at the Bowie Training Center March 8 after the final four horses in those barns tested negative for equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). The four are free to be moved back to their original barns to resume normal activities.

"These negative tests bring this EHV-1 outbreak to official closure in Maryland as all hold orders have been lifted, and there are no reported signs of the virus anywhere in the state," said State Veterinarian Guy Hohenhaus. "This is good news for all of Maryland's horse owners and related businesses. We thank all parties involved for their patience and diligence in stopping the spread of the virus."

EHV-1, which causes upper respiratory infection and can also cause neurological disease, hit Pimlico Race Course in January as three different horses from three separate barns at the legendary Baltimore track were euthanized. The Maryland Jockey Club placed Pimlico on quarantine for an 18-day period, restricting movement to and from the facility for the 500 horses based there. Two horses still had not cleared the testing process as of last week and were prohibited from mixing with the general horse population. After more than two months of quarantine and isolation, all horses in the affected barns have tested negative.

At Laurel Park, where 900 horses are stabled, Barn 9 was on a hold order for more than a month after a filly was euthanized Jan. 26. On March 2, after five weeks of quarantine, 34 of the 36 horses based in the barn cleared the testing process. Trainer Rodney Jenkins relocated the other two to the Bowie Training Center until they tested negative. Negative results on those two were returned Wednesday.

There have been no outbreaks at Bowie, where approximately 600 horses are stabled.

The virus caused Maryland Jockey Club officials to cancel three days of live racing and the 2006 runnings of the Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) and the General George Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), the marquee races of the Laurel Park winter meeting.

"It has been a two-month process, one in which we learned a great deal about this virus," said Lou Raffetto, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. "We hope this knowledge will help us in the future should (future outbreaks) occur. We are relieved to have the situation behind us. I would think this would act as a catalyst to open the borders of the surrounding states, but those decisions will have to be made by the veterinarian in those jurisdictions."