12/27/2016 3:51PM

Positive herpes test prompts quarantine of Fair Grounds barn


One barn on the Fair Grounds backstretch is under quarantine after a horse stabled in it tested positive for equine herpesvirus.

The horse, an Alice Cohn-trained 2-year-old filly stabled in Barn 14, became symptomatic over the weekend and eventually had to be put down because of the severe neurological symptoms associated with the EHV-1 strain of the herpesvirus. The animal returned a positive herpesvirus test Monday, after which security protocols were put in place to restrict contact with horses stabled in the affected barn.

If no other EHV-1 cases are reported, the quarantine will expire two weeks from the date of the positive test, on Jan. 9. Except for horses stabled in Barn 14 – which houses trainers Jose Castanon, Jack Frost, Michelle Lovell, and Jeff Thornbury in addition to Cohn – there have been no restrictions placed on horses coming into and leaving the Fair Grounds backstretch.

Fair Grounds didn’t race Saturday and Sunday but hosted a Monday card. As of Tuesday there were no plans to cancel racing at the New Orleans track, which is scheduled to host another race card Thursday. Louisiana Department of Agriculture officials arrived at Fair Grounds on Tuesday morning to help administer the situation.

Beginning Wednesday, the morning training schedule will be altered to accommodate the quarantined horses. Training for the general population will take place from 5-9 a.m. with a half-hour renovation break. After another break from 9-9:30, the quarantined horses can train between 9:30 and 10:30.

Horses in Barn 14 are to be closely monitored for signs of illness. EHV-1 symptoms include upper-respiratory distress, fever, and neurologic symptoms such as loss of coordination and numbness, especially in the hind end.

Much of the equine population has been exposed to and carries the herpesvirus, which usually remains latent within a horse’s system. When a horse becomes symptomatic and is shedding the virus, it can be transmitted through horse-to-horse contact, indirect contact via contaminated objects, and through the air, though only within roughly a 30-foot radius.

Outbreaks at racetracks are not uncommon. One at Gulfstream Park in November quickly was contained. Fair Grounds last had a herpes outbreak during the 2008-2009 racing season.