Illinois racetrack carries on in shadow of EHV-1

An Illinois racetrack is battling on as it copes with the containment of an outbreak of the neurological form of equine herpes virus 1 (EHV-1) along its back stretch.

Hawthorne Racecourse has been under quarantine since the first cases of the potentially deadly disease were confirmed.

State-enforced quarantine measures have been in place since mid-October,  keeping about 1900 horses stabled there from leaving the course.

Course management has put strict protocols in place to contain the disease, and is continuing to race.

The outbreak has, to date, claimed the lives of three horses.

The first cases were diagnosed on October 14 in Barn A, where five horses trained by Jimmy DiVito were diagnosed and two died.

The barn housed 73 horses and was in use by three other trainers. Thirty ultimately tested positive for the disease, and were isolated.

The virus nevertheless spread to other barns, but by mid-November, with no new cases in 18 days, the outbreak appeared contained.

However, on November 14, five horses in Barn E tested positive, and one of the initial horses that tested positive for the disease was euthanized.

To date, there have been 48 positive tests along the back stretch. The 45 that survived the infection are recovering.

The remainder of the back-stretch horses are healthy and the course is continuing to race, with some modifications.

Course assistant general manager Jim Miller said: “We do know that there is the possibility of sporadic additional cases arising.

“As has been the case for the past month, any horse in question will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

“In the time since the initial outbreak, a lot has taken place with a lot of expense for all involved.

“Hawthorne has spent hundreds of thousands on testing, staff, disinfectant and lost racing dates.

“There are many reasons as to why we continue to race,” he said. “We understand the amount of jobs that are on the line and we know that there are many healthy horses on the backstretch.

“For those who ask for the cessation of racing/training, there would be a whole new risk of sickness/injury that could arise if horses were to be isolated to their stalls with no chance to leave their stall to walk/train/race.

“We know there is a lot of inconvenience for all involved. This is a tough virus to deal with, but we are doing everything under the guidance of the veterinarians and Department of Agriculture.”

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