By T. D. Thornton
Even though the entire stabling area at Fair Grounds Race Course is under a restricted-movement quarantine for multiple outbreaks of equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1), when a fifth horse tested positive for the non-neurogenic type of EHV-1 on Jan. 3, the animal was allowed to be shipped off the backstretch to an attending veterinarian’s private farm, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry (LDAF) confirmed Wednesday.
A Fair Grounds press release sent out on Tuesday evening described that infected horse as a Steve Asmussen trainee housed in Barn 47. Attempts to reach Asmussen for an update on the horse’s condition and an explanation as to why it left the grounds were unsuccessful early Wednesday evening.
When the TDN asked the LDAF why an exception was made to the “no horses in or out” protocol, Veronica Mosgrove, the LDAF press secretary, wrote in an email, “This situation is fluid. Since the horse was being treated for another condition, the LDAF allowed moving the horse to the attending veterinarian’s private isolation facility. I’m told this is a case by case situation. After consulting with the USDA Veterinary Services, the LDAF allowed the move….The attending veterinarian will be enforcing the mandated protocols and biosecurity measures.”
Although Mosgrove did not detail the separate condition that the horse was being treated for, a national Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) outbreak alert dated Jan. 4 reported that “a horse in barn #47 spiked a fever and was tested PCR negative for EHV-1 on blood sample and positive for EHV-1 non-neuropathogenic or wild type strain on nasal samples. The horse had recently undergone a throat surgery and had a history of EIPH but no neurological signs were present.”
According to the EDCC, there are now four individual Fair Grounds barns under quarantine (Barns 14, 36, 47 and the receiving barn), plus four horses that have been individually moved to “isolation” quarantine. So in essence, there are restricted barns on the property in addition to the “no horses in or out of the backstretch” quarantine.
“Due to the nature of the receiving barn where day riders are required to check in, the Fair Grounds is now under movement restrictions with no horses allowed to enter or leave,” the EDCC reported on Tuesday. “Racing will continue at the track. Movement restrictions are also in place at Delta Downs in Vinton, Louisiana, due to the day racers that visit both tracks. Racing will continue at Delta Downs also.”
In March 2016, a similar outbreak of EHV-1 touched off a 17-day quarantine of nearly 500 horses at Payson Park Thoroughbred Training Center in Florida. Other outbreaks in 2016 resulted in backstretch quarantines of varying durations at Sunland Park in New Mexico, Parx in Pennsylvania, and Fonner Park in Nebraska.
In attempts to safeguard the transmission of EHV-1, other racing jurisdictions have swiftly mandated safeguards against the transmission of the disease by placing restrictions on ship-ins.
On Wednesday, the EDCC reported that “the Kentucky Office of State Veterinarian is directing that no horse that has resided or been on a Louisiana race track or training center since
Dec. 10, 2016, shall be allowed entry onto a Kentucky racetrack at this time. Any horse that has been in these environments must come with certification that they have been removed a minimum of 30 days to qualify for entry onto a Kentucky racetrack in addition to their meeting standard health requirements.”
On Monday, Oaklawn Park announced that “no horses that have been in Louisiana in the last 30 days will be permitted on the grounds” until further notice.
“We are being overly cautious because our main concern is for the safety and well-being of the more than 1,200 horses already stabled on our grounds,” said David Longinotti, Oaklawn’s director of racing.
The Delta Downs overnight for Jan. 12 included a notice that read, in part, “Assuming that no cases of EHV-1 are identified at Delta Downs, we plan to lift the quarantine and resume normal activities on Monday, Jan. 9. Starting on that date, Delta Downs will require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and proof of vaccination for the EHV-1, for any horse that enters our premises. This inspection must be conducted within 48 hours prior to the horse’s arrival. This requirement will remain in place until further notice.”
Delta Downs also announced that a pair of $100,000 stakes races originally scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, the Azalea and Pelican S., will be rescheduled for Jan. 13 and 14, respectively, because of EHV-1 shipping restrictions that would have resulted in too many scratches.