Equine Herpes Virus Quarantine at Florida’s Calder Race Course

by Fran Jurga | 3 December 2009 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Was it really three years ago that an Equine Herpes virus outbreak quarantined some of the world’s most valuable show horses and polo ponies in Wellington, Florida? I’m sure the residents there never wanted to hear about this disease again, but it’s that time of year.

Everything’s sunny and bright in Wellington, but down the road at Calder Race Course near Miami, one horse has died and a quarantine of the stable area is predicating the cancellation of this weekend’s big stakes races. The track announced on Monday that three barns have been placed under quarantine after a filly from Ocala tested positive for Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) on Monday at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. The horse had been stabled at Calder.

According to a press release issued by the track, the filly had been showing neurological symptoms over the weekend at Calder and was sent to the vet school in Gainesville on Sunday.

While there is no evidence of other horses diagnosed with the disease at Calder, the quarantine is part of the track’s operational procedures to reduce risk for further contamination. The horses in the three barns are being kept separate from the remaining horse population at Calder, have separate training hours, and are not eligible to race for three weeks. There is no shipping in or out of the three barns for this time period. Some racetracks in Florida have closed their gates to horses that have been stabled at Calder.

This is believed to be the first case of EHV in Florida since the 2006-2007 shutdown, which was probably the most highly-publicized quarantine of horses in US history.

Equine herpes is a highly contagious virus that spreads by contact between horses and contaminated buckets, blankets, tacks, waterers–anything that horses might touch. It inconveniently emerges in the fall when a great number of horses are being transported between summer and winter training, showing and racing centers. Calder, for instance, should be receiving horses this month from the northern tracks that are closing.

How are the show and polo communities reacting to the news of a deadly equine virus in the neighborhood? “As we move toward our equestrian season — and folks are already arriving — this is something we need to keep on our radar,” Wellington Deputy Village Manager John Bonde told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “This is a very big business here. We’re very sensitive to any issue that could impact the industry.”

At the same time, no horses may ship into Calder for two weeks. Calder is working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and its Division of Animal Industry in taking every safety precaution to protect its horse population.

Dr Michael Short, equine programs manager for the Florida Department of Agriculture told the Sun-Sentinel that the track dealt quickly with the sick horse, discovering it and reporting it to the Department of Agriculture. But someone mistakenly shipped the horse for diagnosis to the University of Florida along with three other horses on their way to Ocala, exposing them to the disease, Short said. The horses were immediately isolated, he said, and it’s unlikely they willspread the disease.

In addition to the Sun-Sentinel and Calder Race Course, information for this article was sourced from ocala.com and the International Society for Infectious Diseases at Harvard University, which tracks equine as well as human disease outbreaks, and background research files of The Jurga Report.




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