01/19/2006 12:00AM

Quarantine at Pimlico expands


Yet another barn, Barn A, has been placed under quarantine at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore after a new case of equine herpes virus came under suspicion Thursday by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The quarantine of Barn A is particularly troubling to state and track officials because it is located in the "old" section of the Pimlico barn area, behind the grandstand, whereas previous known and suspected cases of the virus have been isolated in Barns 5, 6, and 8, located in a newer stabling section on the far side of the racetrack.

Dr. Guy Hohenhaus, Maryland State Veterinarian, said in a release that "the finding of a horse with signs consistent with equine herpes virus in Barn A comes as a surprise to us and is very disappointing. While there is no way to know if this suspected case is connected with the others, we are looking into any possible relationship between them to find and close any gaps that might allow for transmission."

Two Pimlico horses already have been euthanized during the virus outbreak this month. They were News Reporter, who was later confirmed to be carrying the virus, and Kalli Calling, for whom test results are pending.

Trainers with horses in Barn A are Joseph Delozier, Stephen Hinds, Ellis Y. Pruce, and Casey Randall.

About 500 horses are currently stabled at Pimlico, and 115 of them are now under the quarantine order. Live racing is being held at Pimlico's sister track, Laurel Park.

Pimlico horses unaffected by the outbreak are still being allowed to race at Laurel, but a wide range of stringent restrictions have been placed on horses moving in and out of Pimlico and, in some cases, anywhere in Maryland. For example, West Virginia announced last week that it is not accepting Maryland horses until further notice.

The current methods of quarantine will remain in effect at Pimlico, said Hohenhaus.

"Based on the current situation in Barns 5 and 6, we believe that the preventive actions in place are working, and we continue to try to bring closure to this difficult situation just as soon as possible," he said.

Hohenhaus said at an afternoon news conference that it would be "impossible to say for sure" how a horse so far removed from the quarantined barns contracted the disease. He speculated that it might have been tainted equipment transported from one side of the track to the other, or "just a poorly-timed coincidence" of an unrelated outbreak. "I'm more interested in where it might go," he added.

Hohenhaus said a 21-day minimum is in effect regarding when horses can be released from quarantine.

No horses from Barn 5 have tested positive for the virus for about two weeks, according to Hohenhaus.

"We're looking at another 10 days or so before we can consider whether they will be eligible for release back into the general horse population," he said.

Equine herpes virus causes upper respiratory infection and can cause neurological disease. Within the last nine months, outbreaks of the disease have occurred at Churchill Downs, Prairie Meadows, Calder, and currently at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Restriction lifted on one Turfway barn

Quarantine restrictions on one of two racehorse barns at Turfway were lifted Thursday by Kentucky state veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout. The 48 horses in that barn, which had been quarantined since Dec. 22, were scheduled to begin training with the rest of the horse population Friday morning.

Barn 27 remains under quarantine at Turfway. Horses in that barn will undergo another round of tests Sunday.

Stout's office released a statement explaining why the Barn 26 quarantine was lifted. It read: "Negative [test] results, supported with information that no clinical evidence of disease has been suggested within this group of animals or barn during the previous 26-day period . . . provides us the opportunity to conclude these animals are not affected with an active equine herpes virus infection."