Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Infection strikes Turfway horses


Equine herpes hits 3; 80 put in quarantine

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FLORENCE - Just days before the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race, 80 horses have been quarantined for three weeks in a barn at Turfway Park, after three horses were diagnosed with Equine Herpes Virus Type 1.

The virus is the same infection that killed 14 horses at the University of Findlay (Ohio) equestrian complex in January.

"The virus is quite common in the horse population, but Kentucky has historically been relatively free of this neurological form of the disease," said Dr. David Powell of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

"We're not aware of a tie between Turfway and Ohio, but we are monitoring the situation," Powell said.

Powell said he hadn't seen a case of this type of EHV-1, known to vets and breeders as EHV-1 neurological syndrome, in Kentucky since he arrived in 1985.

The Lane's End Stakes will be run on Saturday despite the quarantine, officials said.

The track has implemented an Equine Infectious Disease Action Plan developed by the Gluck Center and is working with the state veterinarian's office on anti-infection protocols.

All other racing will continue as scheduled.

Rusty Ford, equine program manager at the state Veterinary Office, said Turfway Park has handled the situation well.

"They've been very proactive and were able to contain the virus to a single barn," Ford said.

"They've implemented protocols, including properly cleaning and disinfecting the area, that should minimize the threat of it spreading."

Two of the horses diagnosed with the virus are at a Lexington hospital, where they were taken two weeks ago with high fevers. The third horse, still in the barn, was found with the virus last weekend.

All three have been treated and are responding favorably to the medication, according to Turfway Park President Bob Elliston.

"The steps we have taken are to reduce potential exposure to other horses," said Elliston. "We are doing this out of an abundance of caution."

There are five types of the equine herpes virus, with Type 1 neurological syndrome - the type found at Turfway - being one of the most dangerous. It is highly contagious and is passed from horse to horse through secretions.

So a halter used on one horse might pass the virus on to another.

The EHV-1 neurological syndrome virus is not passable from horses to humans or from horses to other animals.

Though there are vaccines against some of the five types of equine herpes virus, there is no vaccine for EHV-1, Powell said.

Along with the Findlay, Ohio case, cases of EHV-1 neurological syndrome have been documented in Pennsylvania and northern Virginia.

The 80 quarantined horses belong to six different trainers. Elliston did not release the names of the trainers or the horses.

Elliston said the park ships and receives between 50 and 80 horses each race day. About 950 horses are stabled at the park.

He said all trainers planning to bring horses in this week have been contacted, and he is confident they will all participate in their scheduled races.

A field of eight horses is shaping up for the Lane's End Stakes, according to the track. Lion Tamer, Champali, Saintly Look, Eugene's Third Son, New York Hero, Lots of Sizzle, Ozzie Cat and Wendlar were expected to race as of Monday afternoon.

The draw for the Lane's End Stakes is scheduled for Thursday.

"I believe it will be business as usual for the horses here," Elliston said.




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