Strangles Report Shows Decline in Cases at Trackside

According to a second round of tests on quarantined horses, the number of confirmed cases of strangles has declined and there is no evidence that the disease has spread at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center in Louisville, Ky.  

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture reported on March 23 that the tests performed on 49 horses--including 43 quarantined in the west end of barns K and L at Trackside--show that 40 tested "negative" for strangles.

The results of the second round of tests found that:

  • 28 horses returned negative results in both of their strangles tests; 
  • Six horses tested positive for the disease on both occasions; 
  • 12 horses that had positive results for infection on their first test returned a negative result on the second tests.

Test results on three horses were still pending.

"We are encouraged that this second round of test results indicates that the precautionary measures recommended by state agriculture officials and implemented at Trackside are having their desired effect," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "The number of positive results in those tests declined from the initial round and, most importantly, it appears that our joint efforts to contain the organism to those barns have been effective to this point. We will continue those preventive quarantine measures and we wish to assure our horsemen that we are doing everything possible to ensure that their horses will not be at risk for exposure to this disease in our facilities."

Strangles is a purulent pharyngitis, or a pus-associated inflammation of the throat caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi. It is also considered a lymphadenitis (inflammation of the lymph nodes) affecting the head region. S. equi depends on the horse for survival, and it survives only briefly in nasal discharge and pus drained from abscesses. Strangles can be transmitted by direct contact with this discharge or pus, or by people, flies, veterinary instruments, or shared equipment such as buckets or tack. Quarantine and rigorous disinfection procedures are implemented when strangles is diagnosed on a farm.

A third round of tests is scheduled on each of those horses. The tests will include an endoscopic examination of the throat and guttural pouches of the 28 horses that have returned negative results in their two previous tests. Results of the third set of tests should be returned to the KDA late next week.

The horses that have returned negative results on both tests were moved on March 23 from Trackside barns K and L to barn D, where they will remain in quarantine until the results of the third round of tests have been returned.

Those horses will continue to be separated from the general Trackside horse population and will be allowed on the track only during alternate training hours of 2-3 p.m. (EST). If those horses are again found to be free of the infection when the results of the third round of tests are returned, they will be allowed to return to the general horse population and participate in regular training hours.

The six horses that have twice tested "positive" for the disease will be moved from the Trackside grounds within the next few days and relocated to other quarantine facilities to continue their treatment for the ailment.

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