Controls remain in place at New Mexico racetrack to control EHV-1 outbreak

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Update: EHV-1 count rises to 44 at Sunland Park

Biosecurity measures remain in place at New Mexico’s Sunland Park racetrack as officials work to rein in an outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1.

The outbreak, first confirmed on January 21, has resulted in 28 cases at the track among horses housed at 17 different barns. Four horses were euthanized as a result of neurological problems.

The New Mexico Livestock Board said the number of cases represented less than 2 percent of the more than 1600 horses housed at the track.

Acting state veterinarian Dr Alexandra Eckhoff was among those who spoke to owners, trainers, and groomers who gathered on February 1 for a pair of meetings – one in English, one in Spanish – hosted by racetrack officials.

Eckhoff urged personnel to maintain biosecurity controls, including washing their hands before and after working with a horse, disinfecting their clothing and footwear before and after working with a horse, and washing and disinfecting any items – buckets, grooming gear, saddles and other tack – that horses might have touched.

Barn operators are required to take the temperature of their horses twice a day, then record and report that information daily by order of the New Mexico Racing Commission. Fever is often the first indicator of EHV-1.

The Racing Commission last week said horsemen and women who failed to take and report the temperatures of their horses risked being fined $US250 and/or having their license suspended.

In addition to state government’s regulatory measures, Sunland Park has taken its own steps to control the potential spread of the virus.

Racetrack officials installed a compliance officer last week to ensure that, among other things, men and women at the track were taking and accurately reporting their horses’ body temperatures.

Samples taken from horses suspected of having the virus are being tested at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services laboratory in Albuquerque.

EHV-1 is contagious and spread via a horse’s nasal secretions, either directly from horse to horse, or indirectly via human handlers, feed and water buckets, grooming gear, riding tack, and trailers.

“EHV-1 is not a death sentence for a horse,” Dr. Tim Hanosh, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Services lab, said. “Most horses will get over the fever. Some will develop minor neurological signs they can recover from. And, unfortunately, a few will develop severe neurological problems they can’t recover from.”

Several barns at Sunland Park Racetrack remain under quarantine following the first EHV-1 confirmation on January 21.

As an extra precaution, the Livestock Board established a broader quarantine perimeter the following day that encircles Sunland Park Racetrack and three nearby horse-training centers (Frontera, Jovi, and Lazy S).

People who removed their horses from any of these premises before quarantines were established are advised to contact their veterinarian.

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