Vernon Downs EHV-1: At Least Four Horses Affected

Vernon Downs EHV-1: At Least Four Horses Affected

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Laboratory tests completed at the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory revealed that at least four horses stabled at Vernon Downs Raceway have been infected with a strain of the equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), according to a joint statement from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine and State Gaming Commission Acting Executive Director Robert Williams. The statement indicated the affected horses were stalled in two barns at the track; both barns have since been quarantined.

Because of its condition and prognosis due to the infection, one Standardbred horse was humanely euthanized, the statement noted, while the other three remain under quarantine in two barns at the racetrack.

"As of May 6, no other horses at New York racetracks have been reported to have EHV-1," the statement read.

In the statement, officials that recommended owners, trainers, or caretakers of horses that have been at Vernon Downs in the past two weeks, or those who believe their horses have been exposed to EHV-1, adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Check horses' temperatures twice a day for ten days, and if the temperature is 101.5°F or greater, contact your veterinarian immediately; and  
  • If individuals wish to test horses, consult your veterinarian.

The statement noted that the preferred test is PCR analysis performed on nasal swab speciment; the statement said that blood samples can also be tested for the presence of the virus.

"A single negative test has limited value in demonstrating whether or not a horse will become ill or may be shedding the virus," the statement cautioned.

The statement also noted that horsemen and owners should check with track management before shipping horses to or from a track.

"Since Saturday, May 4, live racing at Vernon Downs has been canceled and will continue to be as the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the State Gaming Commission, and track management work to assess and contain the outbreak," the statement read. "No horses are permitted to ship in or out of the facility.

"Vernon Downs’ management, horsepersons, and their veterinarians are taking responsible measures to limit spread and the Gaming Commission and Department of Agriculture and Markets are working with them to investigate and contain the illness," the statement noted

Although it's not transmissible to humans, EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses and camelids and is generally passed from horse to horse via aerosol transmission (when affected animals sneeze/cough) and contact with nasal secretions. The disease can cause a variety of ailments in equids, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease usually found in young horses), abortion in broodmares, and myeloencephalopathy (EHM, the neurologic form).

Myeloencephalopathy is characterized by fever, ataxia (incoordination), weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, and incontinence. Should a horse that potentially has been exposed to EHV-1 display any of the aforementioned clinical signs, call a veterinarian to obtain samples and test for the disease. will provide updates as additional information becomes available.

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