LAUREL, MD. 11-26-08---The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) reports that all 25 horses in Laurel Park’s Barn 1 have tested negative for the neurologic form of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) on a second round of tests. These tests end the situation that began on Nov. 12 when a 2-year old filly from King Leatherbury’s stable became neurologic and tests proved she had the virus.

“Today MDA and Maryland Racing Commission veterinarians examined all 25 horses in Barn 1, confirming that all appear healthy and we lifted the Hold Order,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Guy Hohenhaus. “We are pleased and relieved that this situation ended so quickly and want to take the opportunity to remind horsemen at the track and on farms across the state to remain vigilant in their biosecurity practices to prevent this and many other illnesses in their horses.”

The negative nasal swab and blood samples were taken Monday, Nov. 24 nine days after the last known viral exposure in the barn. If any horses were infected it is highly likely the virus would be detected by the aggressive testing protocol employed. The samples were analyzed yesterday by MDA’s College Park Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. With these results, all horses in Laurel Park’s Barn 1, where the EHV-1-positive filly was stabled, have tested negative for the virus twice. No horses in the barn are showing signs of the illness.

“It is a positive to put the situation behind us,“ said Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Tom Chuckas. “We would like to thank the MDA, especially Danny Mast and Marla Stevens, for their hard work and long hours enabling us to get through this whole ordeal quickly and smoothly.”

The filly was the only horse that tested positive. She was euthanized on Nov. 15, three days after the MDA placed a Hold Order on the barn, restricting all movement into and out of the barn, pending further testing. The Hold Order was in place until all horses tested negative on nasal swab and blood samples. Leatherbury’s horses will now be allowed to train in the morning, beginning Thanksgiving morning.

With today’s announcement, the Maryland Jockey Club has also lifted its resctrictions on horses leaving Laurel Park. On Nov. 14, the Maryland Jockey Club prohibited horses from shipping into the central Maryland track except those from the Bowie Training Center on a Maryland Jockey Club shuttle. Six days later, after all the other horses in the Leatherbury barn and 31 lead ponies tested negative, the restrictions were amended, allowing other horses to ship in to race but those runners had to stay until the Hold Order was lifted.

“Everything will get back to normal,” said Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale. “With turf season ending last week we have a number of trainers who would like to take those horses to the farm for the winter. Beginning this afternoon when we take entries for Saturday’s card we’ll start to see some runners from the Fair Hill Training Center and other outside jurisdictions. This will also allow our trainers to run out-of-town as well.”

The Maryland racing community faced an outbreak of the virus in early 2006 when three horses at Pimlico Race Course and another at Laurel Park were euthanized, forcing three live racing cards at Laurel to be cancelled due to lack of horses as racetracks in neighboring states barred horses from running in Maryland.

Equine herpesvirus causes upper respiratory infection and can lead to severe neurological disease. There is currently no known method to reliably prevent the neurologic form of EHV-1 infection. It is recommended to maintain appropriate vaccination procedures in an attempt to reduce the incidence of the respiratory form of EHV-1 infection, which may help prevent the neurologic form. Transmission occurs primarily by direct nose to nose contact or contaminated hands, equipment, feed and water. It can also be spread up to 35 feet by airborn droplets. This virus is not associated with any human health risk.