Three Horses at Turfway Diagnosed with Equine Herpesvirus

Three horses stabled at Turfway Park have been diagnosed with neurologic equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1). Verification of the virus was completed over the weekend at the northern Kentucky track by researchers at the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

All three horses have responded favorably to treatment. Two of the horses were diagnosed with neurologic symptoms while one was not. Each of the Thoroughbreds were located in the same barn under the care of the same trainer. At the direction of the state veterinarian, all horses occupying stalls in the barn will be quarantined until the risk of viral infection has passed.

That is expected to be 21 days if there are no more horses diagnosed with EHV-1. Six individual trainers have horses stabled in the 80-horse barn.

In late January and early February, there was an outbreak of EHV-1 at the University of Findlay in Ohio that claimed the lives of 12 horses.  Several of the Findlay horses were treated at The Ohio State University's veterinary teaching hospital, where several other horses were unintentionally exposed and infected. In a separate outbreak, two horses were euthanized due to illness from EHV-1 at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa. At the moment, however, there has been no correlation with the outbreak at Turfway.

According to Robert Elliston, Turfway Park president, two horses spiked a fever a few weeks ago and they were sent to a hospital in Lexington. A third horse, from the same barn, spiked a fever, was diagnosed with EHV-1, and was put in isolation over the weekend.

In a press release from Turfway Park, the precautionary steps will be taken:

o Horses shipping into Turfway Park will be housed only in the receiving barn or stakes barn;

o All stalls in the receiving barn, detention barn, and stakes barn have been stripped and thoroughly sanitized;

o Implementation of the Equine Infectious Disease Action Plan developed by the Gluck Center is under way;

o In concert with the Gluck Center and the state vet's office, there will be development of protocols for practitioners in handling of horses stabled in the immediate barn.

"We will take whatever steps necessary to ensure the safety of the 950 horses stabled with all year, horses shipping in from training facilities throughout the region, as well as horses shipping in for our Lane's End Stakes day next weekend," said Elliston. Any horse leaving the grounds will have to have a certificate of health.

The Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) is Turfway Park's signature prep for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and is scheduled for Saturday, March 22.

According to Elliston, 50-60 horses ship either in or out of Turfway Park on a normal day. On Lane's End Stakes day, that number could swell to 80-90 horses. Ellison said Turfway Park has plenty of room to accommodate them. He also said several trainers with horses pointing toward the Lane's End and other stakes that day have been contacted and "they understand the situation and still plan on being there."

Fever and an upper respiratory infection are the most common signs of EHV-1 infection. Commonly, horses have depression, poor appetite, nasal discharge and cough.

Typical transmission from horse to horse is by close direct contact or contact with infected nasal discharge (on shared equipment, for example). The virus is short-lived and is very susceptible to disinfectants in clean environments.

Elliston said they have posted security guards, or "bio-security," at the barn and are logging people in and out of the area. Methodical steps are being taken in the handling of each horse and people are required to wash their hands, tools, and instruments after attending to the horses.

Also, veterinarians are taking blood samples and the temperatures of the other horses in the barn on a regular basis. All ponies and other horses that have come in contact with those animals are being monitored.

As for the rest of the facility, "I believe it will be business as usual for the remainder of the meet," Elliston said. The Turfway Park meet runs through April 3.