Virus forces quarantine at a second horse farm

Signs of the equine herpes virus have shown up in Brooksville and Thonotosassa. Two animals have died.

Published April 13, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - For the second time in two weeks, a Florida horse farm has been quarantined because of signs of a deadly equine virus.

State officials quarantined Buchanan Farm in Brooksville on Saturday, when one of the farm's 50 horses tested positive for the respiratory form of the highly contagious Equine Herpes Virus-1 and showed mild symptoms of a more deadly neurologic form.

While the respiratory strain of the virus is more common than the neurologic strain, it can cause abortions and death, said Dr. Michael Short, the equine programs manager in the state veterinarian's office in Tallahassee. There is a vaccine for the virus but it does not protect against the neurologic strain of the disease.

Buchanan Farm is primarily a thoroughbred farm for breeding race horses.

"Because the farm is involved in the brood mare industry and has such a high-risk population, we felt it was prudent to quarantine," Short said.

The infected horse came from Tampa Bay Downs racetrack, but there did not appear to be an outbreak at the track, Short said. The horse is recovering, he said.

The quarantine will be lifted after 21 days if there are no further signs of the virus.

Cross Creek Farm in Thonotosassa was quarantined March 25 when two horses there developed the neurologic strain of the virus and had to be euthanized. The farm is a boarding facility, and horses don't often leave the premises.

Both Buchanan and Cross Creek farms are monitored daily by farm personnel, veterinarians and state officials. The quarantine at Cross Creek is expected to be lifted Monday, Short said.

While not a danger to humans, the virus is an airborne disease that can be carried on clothing, shoes, hands, feed and equipment.

The virus occurrences are becoming more prevalent, Short said. There are outbreaks in seven states from California to Maine.

Meanwhile, 132 Hong Kong racehorses have been infected since February, a year before the city will host the equestrian event of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.