Quarantine Lifted at Sunland Park

A quarantine was first established January 22 after a horse tested positive for EHV-1.

Press release

Horses can now enter and exit the barn area at Sunland Park, as a quarantine that had been in effect since January 22 was lifted on Wednesday.

The New Mexico Livestock Board has lifted the quarantine at Sunland Park Racetrack, following containment of a contagious horse-specific virus there.

Outside racehorses can now enter the racetrack, and the more than 1,600 horses that have been on site since the equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) outbreak began can now leave.

A quarantine was first established January 22 after a horse tested positive for the neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. In total, 68 horses at the racetrack – approximately four percent of all horses there – tested positive. So did another five horses at nearby Frontera Training Center. The majority of these 73 horses made a full recovery.

Because EHV-1 is highly contagious, people at the track were urged to clean and disinfect anything horses had touched or could touch; limit foot, vehicle, and pet traffic at the track; wear plastic boot covers; and sanitize footwear and clothing. Acting New Mexico State Veterinarian Dr. Alexandra Eckhoff instructed horsemen and women on such items in both English and Spanish. The New Mexico Livestock Board created related one-pagers in both English and Spanish for people to reference.

“I think the biggest takeaway from this ordeal will be the need for biosecurity – not just in times of crisis, but all the time,” Bill Bunce, the executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, said.

The New Mexico Racing Commission mandated that every horse's temperature be taken twice a day in order to spot a fever that might indicate infection with the neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. Sunland Park Racetrack added multiple staff to ensure that horsemen and women complied with that mandate – and to limit unnecessary foot, vehicle, and pet traffic.

“It has been a tough few weeks, and I want to thank everyone for their hard work and understanding,” Sunland Park General Manager Rick Baugh said. “This virus is very serious, and all our focus and resources have been dedicated to reducing its impact.”

Because horses with the virus were isolated from healthy horses, Sunland Park Racetrack was able to resume racing more than a week ago. Only healthy horses within the quarantine perimeter were allowed to race.

“We thank the trainers and owners for their understanding and help in preventing this virus from spreading,” New Mexico Racing Commission Chairman Ray Willis said. “It was a team effort by horsemen, management, and state and local veterinarians.”

The New Mexico Racing Commission has adopted changes coming out of this EHV-1 outbreak. Now, a horse entering a Racing Commission-licensed racetrack or training center in New Mexico must be accompanied by copies of its registration certificate and a current health certificate from a veterinarian attesting to the horse's health and temperature.

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