Thursday, 16 May 2013 15:50

Quarantine Issued for Vernon Downs: Some Horses Had Raced at Saratoga

By Patricia Older | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — While three horses have been positively diagnosed with a potentially fatal virus in Vernon Downs Raceway, just west of Utica, and several of the horses at the race track recently raced at the Saratoga harness track, officials with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets say Saratoga should be fine for the 2013 racing season.

"There are no known cases of EHV-1 at Saratoga," said Joe Morrissey, public information officer for NYSDAM. "[But,] prior to EHV-1 being discovered at Vernon Downs, some horses at that track did race at the Saratoga harness track." He added that none of those horses are infected or part of the quarantine.

Three horses were diagnosed at Vernon Downs Raceway earlier this month with a strain of the Equine Herpes Virus Type 1, known as EHV-1, and some of the horses that are at that track had raced at the Saratoga Harness Track. But, Morrissey said that so far, only the three horses at Vernon Downs have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease. One had to be euthanized.

EHV-1 is a fairly common virus for horses with most horses exposed to it over their lifetimes. The viral infection can cause respiratory distress, abortion in pregnant mares, and death to newborn foals as well as cause neurological issues.

"It is a rare event for the virus to cause neurologic disease," said Morrissey. "When it does happen, we take it quite seriously and take all reasonable precautions to prevent further spread."

The horse which was euthanized had developed neurological troubles.

The infected horses will be quarantined until at least the end of the month. Two barns at Vernon Downs—barn number four and barn number two, are under strict quarantine. The only persons allowed to enter the barns are horse caretakers assigned to those barns. The animals cannot be raced or trained during the quarantine period.

Morrissey said the virus can be transmitted through direct or indirect contact—secretions, as well as airborne droplets among animals in close proximity can spread it from horse to horse. The virus does not pose any health problems for humans.

"Hand washing and precautions on sharing equipment between horses goes a long way in helping curb the spread of this disease," said Morrissey.

The euthanized horse was in barn number four and had been trained by Edgar Clarke. Morrissey said the horse was put down "due to extremely poor condition, neurologic disease and a very poor prognosis."


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