Updated on 01/28/2016 4:40PM

State imposes quarantine at Turf Paradise

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The Arizona Department of Agriculture on Thursday placed a 21-day quarantine on the backstretch at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, one day after a horse was euthanized with symptoms consistent with equine herpesvirus, the contagious disease that has shut down Sunland Park in neighboring New Mexico, according to track officials.

The department put the track under quarantine one day after Turf Paradise elected voluntarily to close its backstretch, prohibiting horses from entering or leaving. Vince Francia, the track’s general manager, had said earlier on Thursday that Turf Paradise would have the prohibitions in place for at least three weeks. Turf Paradise will be able to conduct live racing operations while the facility is quarantined.

Turf Paradise made the decision to close the backstretch after a filly from New Mexico was euthanized on Wednesday morning. The filly was exhibiting “wobbling” symptoms that are consistent with the neurological symptoms of EHV-1, as the virus is known, Francia said.

The filly had shipped to Turf Paradise from Sunland on Jan. 20, along with two other horses. Turf Paradise moved the three horses to a quarantine pen a half-mile from the racetrack  one day later, after Sunland officials notified Turf Paradise about the equine herpesvirus outbreak, Francia said.

The three horses had initially tested negative for EHV-1 from nasal swabs, but Turf Paradise is now awaiting results of additional tests on blood samples. The dead horse’s body has been sent to a clinic in Tucson, Ariz., to determine if the symptoms were caused by EHV-1. Francia said the dead filly suddenly began displaying symptoms Wednesday after appearing normal for the preceding week.

The three shippers had all been placed in separate barns on the Turf Paradise backstretch, Francia said, and all of the horses in those barns are being tested for EHV-1 and will not be allowed to mingle with the rest of the horses on the backstretch until the tests come back. Turf Paradise has approximately 1,700 horses on its backside.

“We are on lockdown,” Francia said, noting positive tests for EHV-1 among non-racing horse populations throughout western states. “No one in, no one out.”

Francia said all racing personnel who have recently arrived at the track from New Mexico, including backstretch workers and riders, are being required to have their equipment sterilized and clothes laundered.