A recent and ongoing outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus-1 (EHV-1) at the Illinois racetrack Hawthorne Race Course has caused the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to place restrictions on the movement of horses from Illinois to Kentucky.
The outbreak was first reported in October 2012 and has since claimed the lives of seven horses. The racetrack has remained under quarantine since that time, though officials say this may be lifted by mid-January if no new cases arise. Horses moving from Illinois to Kentucky must have an entry permit issued by the KDA.
"The required entry permit should be applied for by the attending veterinarian in writing and must include each animal's name, age, sex, breed, origin, destination, defined purpose of entry, and the Illinois Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) document number that will be issued," stated Rusty Ford, equine programs manager in the Kentucky State Veterinarian's office, in a memorandum published on January 3, 2013.
Additionally, the memo noted, the request for entry must include a statement confirming the horse(s) have not been to Hawthorne in the preceding 30 days.
Horses who are currently stabled at stabled at Hawthorne, or have recently been at the facility, will not be allowed at any Kentucky tracks unless approved by the Kentucky state veterinarian, Dr. Robert Stout (DVM).
EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment or on the clothes and hands of horse owners. Most commonly, EHV-1 causes respiratory disease or abortion in horses, but a random mutation has lead to a neurological form that affects the brain and spinal cord. The incubation period is typically 2-10 days. Signs of EHM include; fever (>102F), nasal discharge, lack of coordination, hind-end weakness, lethargy, urine dribbling and diminished tail tone.
Horses with severe clinical signs of neurological EHV-1 illness are thought to have large viral loads in their blood and nasal secretions, and therefore present the greatest danger for spreading the disease. Immediate separation and isolation of identified suspect cases and implementation of appropriate biosecurity measures are key elements for disease control.