Horse Virus Found At New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack

BATON ROUGE (AP) — State agriculture officials say they've confirmed a case of Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy, an often deadly neurological disease spread by horse-to-horse contact, at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack.

         The Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry, in a news release Wednesday, said a 2-year-old thoroughbred gelding reportedly developed a fever and neurological signs last week and was euthanized Dec. 26. Nasal swab and blood tests were confirmed positive for Equine Herpes Virus-1 neurogenic strain. EHM is caused from a mutant strain of EHV-1, a common respiratory virus.

         Although not transmissible to humans, department officials said EHM can be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands. Symptoms include fever, ocular or nasal discharge, limb swelling, abortion and neurologic signs like unsteady gait, urine dribbling, hind limb weakness and inability to rise. There is no cure but symptoms are treatable.

         LDAF said no other horses at the Fair Grounds have shown signs of the disease, but the barn where the affected horse was housed is currently under quarantine. Forty-six horses in the barn are being monitored twice daily for clinical signs of the disease such as fever.

         As a result of the EHM case, biosecurity measures at the barn and high traffic areas of the track have been ramped up. Those measures include restricting personnel within the quarantined barn and hand, boot, and equipment sanitizing stations have been set up.

         An epidemiological investigation also is underway by state and federal animal health officials as they continue to monitor the situation.

         State officials are reminding horse owners to be vigilant at horse events and to practice preventative measures such as vaccination, hand-washing, and not sharing equipment.

         The department said EHM was last detected at the Fair Grounds in 2008.



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