02/03/2006 1:00AM

Farm horse carried virus


Tests on a horse that was euthanized last week on an undisclosed farm in Kent County, Md., have indicated that the horse was carrying the equine herpesvirus, Maryland veterinary officials said Friday.

The horse was shipped to the farm from Pimlico Race Course on Jan. 10, two weeks before Pimlico was quarantined by the state because of an outbreak of herpesvirus at the track. Seven other horses at the farm, which is primarily used to board sport horses, have tested positive for equine herpesvirus and are being treated for the disease, according to Sue duPont, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The farm has been placed under a "hold order" by state veterinary officials since Jan. 26, which has prohibited horses from entering or leaving the farm. The hold order will not be lifted until Feb. 22 at the earliest, duPont said, 21 days after the most recent diagnosis of equine herpesvirus.

All seven horses that have tested positive for the disease are showing a range of symptoms, duPont said, from full neurological distress to slight fevers. State law prevents the department from identifying the farm, duPont said.

Equine herpesvirus is a highly contagious disease that attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems. Two separate outbreaks have occurred over the past two months in the U.S. Thoroughbred industry, one in Kentucky and the other in Maryland.

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore remains under quarantine because of the outbreak at that track, but the quarantine is expected to be lifted on Monday, according to track officials. In addition, the agriculture department has placed hold orders on barns at Laurel Park and Bowie Training Center because of isolated cases at those facilities.

On Friday, 14 horses stabled at Pimlico were entered on Laurel's Wednesday card, according to Mike Gathagan, a spokesman for the track. The horses will be allowed to race provided the Pimlico quarantine is lifted as scheduled.