Kentucky State Veterinarian Weighing Options For In-State And Maryland EHV-1 Horses

From E.S. Rusty Ford, equine operations consultant at the office of the state veterinarian, Kentucky Department of Agriculture

Following are updates to the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) incident at Blackwood Training Center in Woodford County, Kentucky.

We are also taking this opportunity to share with you our understanding of the latest developments at Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland.

Blackwood Training Center Woodford County Kentucky:

Results of testing on the samples (Nasal Swabs and Whole Blood EDTA) collected from each horse stabled in Barn B on Wednesday, March 31 have been reported negative for detection of EHV1 DNA by PCR testing.  In addition to the testing that has been completed, the horses have been monitored daily and our findings support that it has been greater than 14 days since any horse in Barn B was last potentially exposed to a clinical case.  Meeting the criteria above provided us the confidence needed to release the group of horses in barn B from restriction and allowed them to resume their normal training and racing activities beginning on Friday, April 2nd.

Barn A at Blackwood: Daily monitoring of the horses stabled in Barn A continues.  There have been no additional fevers or other symptoms in the group, and we have tentatively scheduled the horses in Barn A to be sampled (nasal swabs and whole blood) and tested by PCR later next week.

Maryland:

Laurel/Pimlico

Published reports and conversations with animal health officials in MD, suggest the situation at Laurel continues to evolve as additional positive samples have been collected from non-clinical as well as a few horses exhibiting clinical signs.  The Maryland state veterinarian and the Stronach Group have decided the plan moving forward is to only sample and test symptomatic horses in the affected barns. Currently, their criteria for quarantine release will be 21 days of no clinical signs reported. This plan relies strictly on grooms/trainers/vets to report fever or other evidence of illness, which in our opinion may result in lack of detection of circulating virus. This protocol is in direct contrast to the testing protocols we have developed in consultation with infectious disease experts; and which I feel has aided our ability to maintain racing schedules/calendars with minimal disruption and inconvenience to the majority of horsemen.

In light of the current information available to us, we are in the process of developing strategies to mitigate what would be considered an elevated risk to our populations here in Kentucky should Maryland release the imposed restrictions without diagnostically demonstrating the horses and environment are free of evidence of virus circulating.

The probability is that horses which have recently been (date to be determined) at Laurel or Pimlico, will require Kentucky’s office of state veterinarian approval prior to entering Kentucky. These horses will likely be restricted and require veterinary examination and testing before being allowed to enter a Kentucky racetrack or sanctioned facility.  This  protocol has worked well in the past when we’ve had to address disease events in other states where horses were released from restrictions without testing.

I will be providing and distributing a general summary update late next week when results from the planned testing at Blackwood becomes available.

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