NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The entire New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack is under quarantine now after the spread of the equine herpes virus.
Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said the move to quarantine the entire facility was out of an abundance of caution.
"This quarantine is being done for the health and safety of all horses in the state and to protect the horse racing industry. This virus is highly contagious and we still have horses showing symptoms of illness. We must do everything possible to contain this virus and continue testing until all horses are cleared." said Strain.
As of Thursday, Strain said nine horses remained in isolation at the Fair Grounds. However, Strain said he expects test results back from more horses Friday. He said that there is a high chance that more horses will test positive.
The Department of Agriculture also called in a infectious disease specialist from Kentucky to help contain the spread of the virus.
Sixty-five of what are called ship-in or day race horses that were possibly exposed to the virus in the receiving barn have been traced and placed in isolation in undisclosed locations and are also being tested.
Last month, a 2-year-old thoroughbred gelding was humanely euthanized after it developed a fever and neurological signs. Tests conducted on the horse came back positive for equine herpes virus-1.
While the virus can't be transmitted to humans, it can be severe in horses. According to Strain, the virus is most commonly spread by direct horse-to-horse contact. It can also be spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.
Horses in barns not exposed to EHV-1 will be allowed to continue racing. Exposed horses under quarantine are monitored for at least 14 days and tested twice for EHV-1. Any horses that test positive for the disease, are placed in isolation for further observation and testing.
According to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry the Equine Herpes virus was last detected at the Fairgrounds in 2008.