05/31/2002 12:00AM

Fort Erie illness halts shipping

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Shipping horses between Woodbine and Fort Erie racetracks in Ontario, Canada, has been suspended indefinitely while Ontario Racing Commission veterinarians investigate a case of strangles detected in a pony at Fort Erie.

Strangles is a highly contagious disease of the upper respiratory system, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi. Symptoms include inflammation of the throat, nasal discharge, and abscesses in the lymph nodes under the jaw.

As a result of the positive test, said Hugh Mitchell, senior vice-president of Woodbine Entertainment, "and until we gain assurance that there are no health concerns at Woodbine, we are suspending the shipping of horses there and back until we know more. We want to take every precaution to protect the horses at Woodbine and Fort Erie."

Seven Fort Erie-stabled horses were scratched off Friday's Woodbine card and two more will each be scratched on Saturday and Sunday.