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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EHV Restrictions Lifted at Prairie Meadows

With the May 10 lifting of preventative measures instituted to protect Iowa horses from the outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus elsewhere, the Iowa HBPA applauds the cooperation between the horsemen, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino and regulatory officials.

The Iowa division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association appreciates the inconveniences and trying 21 days owners, trainers and their employees faced while about 130 horses were in isolation, the payoff being that not a single positive was called at Prairie Meadows. With everyone working together, an EHV-1/EHM threat that originated in other states was nipped at the bud by quick and decisive action before a threat could possibly morph into a devastating problem for horsemen and racetrack alike.

“The Iowa HBPA says ‘thank you!’ to all our members and their employees during these last couple of weeks during the restrictions for working with us,” said Leroy Gessmann, president of the Iowa HBPA and the National HBPA. “And also ‘thank you!’ to Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, the state veterinarians and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

“Some have criticized the response as knee jerk or an overreaction. But the overall response by horsemen was an understanding that this action was necessary to prevent a potentially crippling outbreak from occurring here. All officials worked with the HBPA as we tried to balance horsemen’s needs to continue to train, work, break horses from the gates with the importance of having protocols in place to keep non-exposed horses from being contaminated by potentially exposed horses.”

The airborne EVI-1 strain of Equine Herpes Virus is highly contagious and can cause different diseases in horses, the majority affecting the respiratory system. It can also develop into the neurological disease myeloencephalopathy, known as EHM. EVI-1 can be spread through contaminated water buckets, feed tubs, grooming tools, track, clothing and human touch, and as such requires rigid bio-security protocols.

When EVH-1/EHM became an issue at New Mexico’s Sunland Park in January, Iowa officials and the HBPA began discussions on how to handle the situation should a case present itself. The decision was made to be aggressive and proactive in order to prevent an outbreak here.

Those measures were put into effect April 18 when one horse was euthanized and two others tested positive for EHV-1/EHM at Nebraska’s Fonner Park after horses exposed to those index cases had shipped into Prairie Meadows. Among those pressing for such diligence were HBPA board members directly impacted by the aggressive measures.

While there was not a quarantine at Prairie Meadows, approximately 130 horses in five different barns were placed in isolation, their temperatures monitored daily and with separate training hours. Those horses could not be transported to another barn and no other horses were allowed in the barns. The measures were to end after 21 days if no horses tested positive or showed symptoms of equine herpes. Those 21 days are now up without incidence.

Prairie Meadows’ 2016 thoroughbred meet opened as scheduled on April 28.

“Everyone involved knew this was the appropriate course of action to be taken to ensure racing continued,” Gessmann said. “We are now no longer under any restrictions at Prairie Meadows. This is due to the combined efforts of all involved. We are tremendously thankful for everyone’s assistance, patience and understanding that while nothing about the restrictions was perfect regarding training, racing or simply coming in and out of your own barn, we have been successful in not having a single positive called at our track.

“To our members, we wish everyone the best of racing luck.”

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