Updated on 09/18/2011 1:22AM

Four test positive for herpes


Four horses at Monmouth Park in New Jersey have tested positive for equine herpesvirus, Monmouth officials said late Wednesday, ensuring a monthlong quarantine of that track in an effort to contain the outbreak to New Jersey.

The four horses are all stabled in one barn at Monmouth, which has been quarantined since Sunday after five horses began showing symptoms of equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious disease that attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems. Dr. William Keegan, a veterinarian treating the horses, said that none has shown neurological symptoms, which are typically the signs of an advanced stage of the disease.

"The horses are bright and alert and their fevers are starting to wane and normalize," Dr. Keegan said in a statement. "I feel like we caught this early enough to contain it and nip it in time."

Typically, outbreaks of equine herpesvirus require a four-week quarantine. Monmouth has been prohibiting all horses in the affected barns from mingling with the rest of the horse population at the track, and is requiring that any horse that runs at its sister track, the Meadowlands, ship to Monmouth Park as part of the quarantine measures. No Thoroughbred horses are stabled at the Meadowlands, and the meet, which runs through Nov. 11, draws horses from Monmouth and surrounding states.

The equine herpesvirus case is being linked to a Canadian horse farm that has been under strict quarantine since Oct. 13. The farm, Adena Springs North in Ontario, Canada, has prohibited any horses from traveling to or from the farm since a 4-year-old gelding was euthanized on Oct. 13 after displaying severe neurological symptoms of herpesvirus, the director of veterinary services for the farm, Dr. Daniel Duncan, said Wednesday.

The horse at Monmouth that is suspected of carrying the disease left Adena Springs on Oct. 12, Duncan said, along with one other horse. The two horses ended up in the Monmouth barn of Adena's New Jersey-based trainer, Justin Nixon, and one spiked a fever shortly after arriving at the track, according to Nixon and New Jersey racing officials.

The Meadowlands's Wednesday night card was hit by 26 early scratches as out-of-state horsemen canceled any plans to travel to the track, reducing one 10-horse field to only two horses. On Thursday, the Meadowlands was scheduled to run only seven races because of the reduced availability of horses, but on Wednesday morning, the racing office took entries for nine races on the Friday night card. Adena Springs North is one of three farms owned by Frank Stronach, the Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder. Duncan said that one of three barns at the farm has been affected by the herpesvirus outbreak, and that two horses in the barn, including the euthanized horse, have tested positive for the disease. Duncan said that he did not believe any horses other than those sent to Monmouth had been exposed to the virus. Since the gelding was put down, 16 horses at the farm have displayed "febrile" symptoms, which is typically considered a body temperature of 101 degrees or higher, Duncan said, just short of what is considered a fever for a horse. "We're hoping aggressive and early management will limit it to those horses that are already exposed," Duncan said.

At Monmouth, officials said they are still awaiting test results on seven other horses. All seven were initially stabled in the 60-stall barn where the two Adena Springs horses were shipped. Trainers who have horses that have been moved to an isolation barn at Monmouth after displaying symptoms of herpesvirus include Nixon, John Forbes, and Will Andersen.

- additional reporting

by Mike Farrell