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Equine virus resurfaces at Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Race Course has been under quarantine because an equine virus thbroke out October. | Sun-Times

Hawthorne Race Course has been under quarantine because of an equine virus that broke out in October. | Sun-Times

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Updated: January 7, 2013 1:26PM

An equine virus that has caused the deaths of at least four horses and forced a quarantine at Hawthorne Race Course might have claimed another horse last weekend. The latest case comes several weeks after the virus appeared to have run its course after manifesting itself in October.

Racing officials were awaiting the results of a necropsy on a 2-year-old filly that had to be euthanized last weekend after exhibiting symptoms of equine herpesvirus, an airborne virus that isn’t always fatal but has no vaccine. The virus isn’t uncommon in equine environments, but it hadn’t been a problem at Hawthorne for several years.

A positive finding would mean extending the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s quarantine for
another 28 days on some 1,900 horses at Hawthorne for the current meet, which runs through
Dec. 30. Horses haven’t been
allowed to travel to other states
because of the quarantine.

Racing board director of field operations Domenic DiCera said sanitizing measures were put into effect immediately, and movement of horses between barns was

‘‘Hawthorne and the state veterinarians have done what they can to limit the spread, including even sanitizing the tires on tractors used to move dirt,’’ he said.

The virus can’t spread beyond 6 to 8 feet on its own, but officials suspect backstretch workers
moving among the animals might have contributed to spreading it.

‘‘As always, we ask that proper care, hygiene and precautions are taking place in regards to this
virus,’’ Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller said in a statement. ‘‘The good news is that cases have become very sporadic and more horses are returning to the general population. The bad news is that sporadic cases still exist and are treated on a case-by-case basis.

‘‘I want to thank the horsemen for their support during this meet, as we have nearly 1,900 healthy horses that are able to race. We
understand the need for those healthy horses to train and race. Many people are employed by the racing industry, and many owners with healthy horses would like the ability to earn purse money.’’

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