Horses at Illinois State Fair Cleared of Equine Herpes Virus Exposure Risk

Standardbred barn re-opened after effort to protect all horses at event
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The carousel horses might be the only equines at fairs that are immune from the threat of a disease outbreak. Fairs usually offer events for a mix of racing, showing, rodeo, and/or performing horses. All are at risk of contagious diseases on the grounds. (Christine Zenino photo)

The carousel horses might be the only equines at fairs that are immune from the threat of a disease outbreak. Fairs usually offer events for a mix of racing, showing, rodeo, and/or performing horses. All are at risk of contagious diseases on the grounds. (Christine Zenino photo)

A disease outbreak is always an important event to note in the horse world. While it usually occurs at a farm or training track, it sometimes occurs at a busy racetrack or horse show where horses--and people--are coming and going and the risk of both spreading a disease and sickness or even death of horses is greatly increased.

When officials at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield realized that they had the factors in place for a potential disease situation on their grounds on Friday, they took action. The fair hosts a harness racing meet, a western horse show, a draft horse show and pull, open show with gaited, Morgan and Arabian classes, and a youth horse show, so the potential impact reached far beyond the racetrack barns, where concerns began.

Here's the official announcement from fair officials on how the situation developed and was handled:

The Illinois State Fair Friday increased bio-security practices in one of its Standardbred horse barns after learning that several horses in the barn may have been exposed to a horse at Balmoral Park in Chicago that was exhibiting symptoms of equine herpes virus (EHV-1), a contagious disease that poses no risk to humans or other animals, but can be fatal to horses. 

These practices were implemented after consulting State Veterinarian Dr. Mark Ernst of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Racing Board veterinarian Dr. David Fitzpatrick and were taken as a precaution to protect the health of all horses on the fairgrounds. 

Tests came back negative for the virus Saturday and the heightened bio-security practices, which included restricting access into the barn, are no longer necessary. 

Horse races at the fair are scheduled to begin Monday with a full card of 15 races. Post time is noon. 

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