03/10/2008 11:00PM

Herpes test shuts Charles Town

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Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia has shut down its backstretch and canceled racing on Wednesday and Thursday while the track awaits test results from a horse that began exhibiting symptoms of equine herpesvirus on Monday afternoon, according to officials at the track.

Danny Wright, the track's chief steward, said samples were drawn from the unidentified horse on Monday and sent to Kentucky to test for the disease, which is highly contagious and attacks a horse's upper respiratory and neurological systems. The disease poses no danger to humans.

The horse's symptoms were not conclusive for herpesvirus, Wright said, but the track wanted to take "every possible precaution."

"So far, we're encouraged" that the horse does not have the disease, Wright said. "But we've put in place a total shutdown. No horses can train or walk the shed row. No horses in and out. No equine movement whatsoever."

The racing industry has taken extreme precautions over the past several years when horses exhibit symptoms of herpesvirus because of an outbreak of the disease in 2006 that disrupted racing and training schedules along the Eastern Seaboard. Earlier this year, a barn was quarantined at Bowie Training Center in Maryland after a horse displayed symptoms of the disease, but the horse tested negative.