10/16/2012 3:25PM

Hawthorne: Unknown ailment spreads to more horses in affected barn


Three more horses have become seriously ill in a barn on the Hawthorne backstretch, bringing to five the total number of animals afflicted with an as-yet undiagnosed sickness, according to Dr. Dawn Folker-Calderon, the state-employed veterinarian at Hawthorne.

But as of Tuesday afternoon the outbreak remained confined to horses stabled in Barn A, suggesting isolation protocols introduced Sunday might have kept the illness from jumping into Hawthorne’s general horse population.

In response to the sicknesses, Kentucky, Florida, and Louisiana have banned horses shipping to or from Hawthorne.

A horse in Barn A, a 74-stall barn on the west side of the Hawthorne backstretch, became neurologically distressed late Saturday night after showing symptoms of an upper-respiratory ailment, including fever. A second horse followed a similar pattern Sunday before the three new cases were reported Tuesday. The afflicted horses displayed ataxia, or loss of coordination, that makes it impossible for a horse to stand. Laboratory test on the original two cases were being performed Tuesday with results expected sometime Wednesday. No diagnosis has been made, but symptoms are consistent with equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious viral disease.

One of the first two horses to fall ill had to be euthanized Tuesday, Dr. Folker-Calderon said. The body was sent to the University of Illinois for a necropsy. Other horses in Barn A have run a fever but all have responded to treatment. The horses in the affected barn – trained by Jim DiVito, Roger Brueggemann, Mickey Goldfine, and Joe Kasperski – are not allowed to leave the premises, while people exiting the barn must perform disinfecting procedures upon departure. Dr. Folker-Calderon said she’s been in regular contact with officials at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. A quarantine of the Hawthorne backstretch could be imposed, depending on Wednesday’s lab results.