N.J. Track's Caution is Judicious and Smart, Says Vet Expert

Little information will be available on the status of five horses that developed fevers at Monmouth Park racetrack in New Jersey until tests are returned on nasal swabs from the animals. The horses reportedly have not shown any neurologic signs. In the meantime, racing jurisdictions have been vigilant about restricting shipments of animals from and between Monmouth and other tracks, which will reduce the impact on the racing industry if equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) is confirmed.

"I think Monmouth's doing an excellent job, being judicious and smart in communicating what's happening," said Rob Holland, DVM, PhD, a practitioner from Central Kentucky and senior veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health who primarily focuses on equine infectious diseases. "From what I understand, they have five to six horses they are concerned about that have fever, so they're being cautious. But they haven't identified it (as EHV-1)."

A release from the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority Monday (Oct. 23) explained that two horses had been shipped in to the Monmouth's barn area late last week, and one of the horses spiked a fever shortly thereafter. A total of five horses in that same barn developed fevers.

George Allen, PhD, a professor in the department of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, is head of the only Office International des Epizooties (the World Organization for Animal Health) reference laboratory for equine herpesvirus in the Western Hemisphere. Allen confirmed that he is scheduled to receive samples from Monmouth for testing, but said he knows little else about the situation.

EHV-1 can cause respiratory or neurologic signs in all ages, breeds, and sexes of horses, and it can cause abortion in pregnant mares. The neurologic form can debilitate the horse until it is unable to stand, and many times it must be euthanatized. Herpes can be spread through nose-to-nose contact by nasal secretions, but also via shared buckets, equipment, and handlers. The virus often causes respiratory disease that makes the horse spike a fever. The fever is often very high, but the horse might not show many--if any--signs of respiratory disease. Sometimes a neurologic EHV-1 horse shows clinical signs of respiratory disease leading up to neurologic signs, and sometimes he doesn't.

Holland explained, "The state jurisdictions are being careful because of the last experiences they had with herpes. (The neurologic form of EHV-1 was diagnosed in at least five different states in January and February of this year. It's important to note, however, that this is not a disease limited to the racing industry.) We'll know more in a day or so (approximately when test results will be available). It's better to be over-reationary on the front end than wait until a problem develops."

He added, "They're talking about prophylactic vaccination for the rest of the herds. Talk to your veterinarian about your horse's vaccination status and about the potential risk of exposure."

For more information on EHV-1, check out our free PDF library of EHV-related articles including images, or all our archived EHV-1 articles on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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