The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) released the following update Monday to an outbreak of neurotropic EHV-1 at Woodbine Racetrack:
On May 17, the AGCO reported two Thoroughbred horses that resided in Barn 12 at Woodbine had tested positive for the disease, and ordered a number of measures be put in place to address the situation.
All 59 horses residing in Barn 12 have since been tested and in total, 20 cases of EHV-1 have now been confirmed among those horses. The affected horses are in isolation or have been sent to the Ontario Veterinary College for treatment. Regrettably, one horse has had to be euthanized due to the neurological disease.
The horses in Barn 12 that tested negative will be retested on May 19. All horses in neighboring Barn 11 are also being tested. To further trace possible contact with the infected animals, Woodbine is identifying all horses and people that may have come into contact with or been in proximity to horses in Barn 12. The AGCO has also ordered Barns 33 and 35 be locked down due to a horse showing signs of fever. The horse has been isolated and will also be tested on May 19.
All infectious disease protocols ordered by the AGCO on May 17 remain in place.
The AGCO shares the collective concern for the well-being of all equine athletes and would like to recognize the efforts of staff at Woodbine, the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario, the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs for their collaboration and diligence in addressing this situation.
We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and further developments will be reported. EHV-1 cannot be spread to humans and is unrelated to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Horses are not permitted to leave the Woodbine facility except by special permission during the outbreak.
Scientists believe that most horses have been exposed to EHV-1 at some point in their lives, but many do not become ill as a result. One study indicated as many as 3.8 percent were actively shedding the virus at an event without showing any symptoms. Most commonly, signs of EHV-1 include fever, lethargy and nasal discharge, but EHV-1 can sometimes cause neurological symptoms, which can be fatal.
There are two strains of EHV-1: the “wild type” not associated with neurological symptoms, and the neurotropic strain, which can cause neurological issues.
EHV-1 can easily be spread between horses housed close together through personnel or via objects like halters, buckets, wipe rags, etc. There are vaccines out there for EHV-1, but none claim to be effective at preventing the neurological strain of EHV-1.
For more information on what experts know (and what they don't know) about EHV-1, see this 2016 Q&A from the Paulick Report.
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