2nd P.E.I. barn in quarantine after horse tests positive for strangles

·3 min read
Signage at Red Shores Racetrack aimed at restricting acccess to the barn area.
Signage at Red Shores Racetrack aimed at restricting acccess to the barn area.

(Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

A second barn at the Red Shores Racetrack in Charlottetown is under quarantine after a horse there tested positive for strangles.

The director of racing for the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission said a vet noticed a horse on Tuesday with some symptoms of the disease, and the horse was tested the same day.

On Wednesday, the test came back positive.

Strangles is a highly contagious upper-respiratory illness that can cause swollen lymph nodes and fevers in horses, donkeys and mules. While the illness can be fatal, most horses do survive.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"That barn's taken quick action and they've put the barn under quarantine and implemented biosecurity measures," said Brett Revington, director of racing for the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission.

"They've taken the action of wearing gloves, disinfecting horse gear, disinfecting the feed and water tubs, and really limiting the people in and out of that barn as well."

Revington said another 18 to 20 horses in the same barn have also been tested.

First case in November

Another case of strangles was confirmed in November in a young horse, resulting in the quarantine of about 25 horses at another barn at Red Shores.

"We're not cleared of that situation yet, the barn [is] still under quarantine. There's just a few horses left," Revington said.

Of the old and new cases, he added: "I don't think that they're related; they're in totally separate barns. Like any outbreak ... we'd like it to be cleared up sooner rather than later. But unfortunately, sometimes these occurrences take a lot longer than we'd all like."

CBC
CBC

Red Shores Racetrack has taken measures to prevent the spread of strangles, including adding security and restricting who can enter the barns.

Red Shores also hosted an information session about strangles, with an expert speaker from the Atlantic Veterinary College, and almost 3,000 viewers tuned in.

"I think a lot of horse people in Prince Edward Island are being vigilant. They want more information and that was a really good step," said Lee Drake, manager of racing, brands and broadcast divisions at Red Shores.

Season over until May

Drake noted that time is on Red Shores's side at the moment: The harness racing season is finished for now, resuming in May.

"There's never really a good time for this ever, but I think at this point, because we're in the offseason right now, it gives us an opportunity and the ability to really get a grip on this and get it under control," Drake said.

"We're confident that the experts who continue to do work on this file and everybody works together, that we'll get through this."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Under commission rules, horses must test negative for the disease three times before the quarantine will be lifted.

Drake said that's why it can take a while to clear up the cases.

"The testing regime takes weeks, because of the protocols and the testing that the veterinarians want in place, and the disease control experts want in place, so it does take a while to get through it," Drake said.

"We accept that because the majority of the horses that were in the original quarantine barn have been released, and that's because of good testing."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

However, the Atlantic Commission's director of racing said it is unlikely they will ever find what caused either of the outbreaks.

"No, I think that's the million-dollar question. I don't think we'll totally ever be able to find that out," Revington said.

"There's just such a movement of horses between the Maritimes, and between Ontario and back, and between the Maritimes' different racetracks — six different racetracks. It's really difficult to nail it right down."

Although strangles is highly contagious to other horses, it is only rarely passed on to humans.

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