Is no place sacred? One of Great Britain loveliest showplaces for the Thoroughbred horse, and one of the few places open to the public, is facing the same thing as at least two racetracks in the United States: Equine Herpes Virus. (See yesterday’s story about racetracks in Arizona and New Mexico.)
The National Stud is set amid 500 acres in the heart of Newmarket, England’s racing capital.
“Please note that The National Stud will be closed to the general public until further notice” is the simple message on the facility’s website.
According to Britishhorseracing.com, Managing Director Brian O’Rourke said, “We have taken these necessary measures for the greater good of Newmarket. That’s why we’ve locked the gates and all being well there will be no more hiccups.”
With more than fifty Thoroughbred training stables, two major racetracks, and approximately 3,000 racehorses, an estimated 28 percent of all the racehorses in Britain call Newmarket home. Newmarket is the last place a contagious virus is wanted–or needed. The local economy is based on racing: one in every three jobs in Newmarket is related to horse racing.
Given the close proximity of horses to each other in the town, the shared training gallops and the constant transit of horses in and out of town daily to race elsewhere in England, it’s likely that a band of angels is looking out for the health of the residents.
The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) quickly issued an announcement of the situation for member veterinarians, noting that the affected horse, a filly, was fully vaccinated and was being held in isolation.
The filly arrived from Europe on January 20th and by the 31st, the Stud was closed.
BEVA described the situation as “a limited neurological EHV-1 outbreak with a single non-fatal clinical case affecting a non-pregnant mare, that was recently imported to the UK from mainland Europe”, also noting that the isolation unit is quite a distance from the rest of the horses on the farm.
Great Britain does not require formal reporting of EHV, although the Horse Racing Betting Levy Board (HBLB) does recommend it strongly, particularly in the case of what it calls “paralytic” EHV. HBLB publishes an annual “Code of Practice” for veterinarians to follow in the event of an outbreak of EHV and other contagious equine diseases.
In the United States, EHV’s status as a reportable and/or actionable disease determined on a state-by-state basis made it difficult to document the multi-state outbreak of 2008. A retrospective report on that situation by the USDA revealed that quarantines varied from 14 days to three months, that diagnostic tests were performed in multiple laboratories, and that the persons with authority to report a case and impose quarantines or movement restrictions varied between states. Even defining what comprises an “outbreak” can be open to interpretation by different authorities or states.
In Britain, everyone seems read from the same page of the same book. As luck would have it, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) equine research facilities are located right in Newmarket. AHT is a major center for research into contagious equine diseases and also a World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for EHV-1.