01/20/2017 3:46PM

Fair Grounds planning to accept shippers next week

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NEW ORLEANS – Provided the status quo holds and there are no further cases of the equine herpesvirus at Fair Grounds in the coming days, the track will begin accepting shippers again next week. Offtrack horses are entered to race on the Friday, Jan. 27, card.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry announced Wednesday that its quarantine of the Fair Grounds backstretch would end Saturday, Jan. 21, as long as no new cases of the virus, known as EHV-1, were reported. Fair Grounds had forbidden horses from shipping in or out Jan. 2, well before the state’s quarantine, but that restriction will be lifted with the state-imposed quarantine.

The receiving barn, where offtrack shippers are stabled if their trainers don’t have stalls at Fair Grounds, is still under quarantine because a horse there tested positive for herpes. But the receiving barn is scheduled to come out of quarantine Monday and will be ready to accept off-site horses who were entered Thursday for the Jan. 27 program.

The positive herpes test in the receiving barn came from a horse who had a fever, quickly recovered, and was confirmed to have the relatively mild “wild” strain of the virus. All but two of the positive herpes tests at Fair Grounds were for the wild-type virus, and on Friday, one of two horses to test positive for the more dangerous neuropathogenic strain returned a second negative test.

That filly had been housed in Barn 14, where the herpes outbreak began when a horse got very sick and had to be euthanized after contracting the neuropathogenic virus. That first case was confirmed Dec. 26. The filly, who has since recovered, tested positive Dec. 31 but was negative on blood and nasal-swab testing performed early this week and negative again Friday. Because of the two negative tests, the filly can now be removed from an isolation stall.

There still are 38 isolated horses at Fair Grounds, and though none tested positive for the neuropathogenic strain, they, too, must twice test negative before they can return to the general population. Five more barns that had positive tests still are quarantined. If no further cases occur, barns 30 and 47 come out of quarantine Jan. 31, Barn 45 on Feb. 3, and barns 14 and 36 on Feb. 6.