Herpes-infected horses prompt quarantine at the Fair Grounds

Herpes-infected horses prompt quarantine at the Fair Grounds

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The backstretch of the Fair Grounds remains under quarantine after horses began getting sick with a strain of the disease EHV-1.

"It's called equine herpes virus. It's been around forever. In fact, there's a vaccination for it. It's not contagious to people, and that's important," Dr. Jay Addison said.

Horses, though, can transmit the disease through nose-to-nose contact, or horses can catch the disease if equipment or feed buckets are shared.

The virus first showed up at the Fair Grounds in a 2-year-old gelding. The horse was euthanized.

"That particular horse had fairly severe neurological signs, and was in more of a danger of injuring itself. It was the humane thing to do at the time," Addison said.

He said in most cases, an infected horse will have a mild fever and runny nose. There's no cure for the disease, but the symptoms are treatable.

"Just like, if you have a cold sore or something like that, it can stay in the body, so it can be in a closed population and all of a sudden just pop up if the horse gets a little stressed," Addison said.

After the gelding was euthanized, two other horses on the backstretch at the Fair Grounds had spiked temperatures.

"They will be in quarantine for two weeks after the last known fever, because generally speaking, the disease can be transmitted for at least two weeks after they are febrile," Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said.

Strain said horses in three of the barns at the Fair Grounds are now being monitored twice daily, and bio-security measures at the barn and high traffic areas of the track are ramped up.

"The race track, basically what they've done is that they're not allowing any outside horses onto the track, so the races are going to continue," Strain said.

"Because of the economic impact on the horsemen and their owners out here, they're very vigilant about everything," Addison said.

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