The Tigers beat Air Force 1-0 that afternoon, and the next day the sightseers were still regaling teammates with the burn-and-crash story when the team stopped for lunch at a McDonald's. That's when a man pulled up to the drive-in window, brandished a gun and passed over a note demanding money. The diners froze as the McManager called 911. The man drove off before police arrived. "All in all, it was a good trip," says Cheynowski. "I hope it all happens again."
The Virus Down Under
In September 1994, 14 Australian racehorses, 13 of them housed in the Brisbane stables of noted trainer Vic Rail, died mysteriously and horribly, drowning as their own blood filled their lungs (SI, Oct. 3, 1994). Rail himself, after trying desperately to save his horses, also died in September '94, apparently of the same disease. The lining of his blood vessels disintegrated, allowing blood to leak into his lungs.
The apparent emergence of an infectious agent deadly to both horses and humans shocked the Australian racing and scientific communities. Racing was temporarily suspended as scientists arrived from all over the continent to investigate the illnesses. Within days of Rail's death, researchers at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory near Melbourne had isolated the cause—a virus they referred to as equine morbillivirus (EM), which is of the same genus as the measles virus.
After testing horses and humans living in the area of the outbreak, scientists found no further infection and declared the crisis over in October 1994. But a year later a 35-year-old breeder named Mark Preston died, apparently from EM, thus generating new concerns about the virus.
Researchers speculate that the virus passed from infected horses to both Rail and Preston through contact with tainted equine blood. Rail, desperately attempting to save his horses, may have scratched his arms when he pushed food down their throats. Preston, whose own horses are apparently not infected with the virus, helped perform an autopsy on a horse last year, a procedure that would have brought him in contact with large amounts of blood.
While Preston tested positive for EM, his symptoms were neurological (they included inflammation of the brain) rather than respiratory, as had been the case with Rail and his horses. The apparent ability of the virus to cross species is frightening, as is EM's relationship to the measles virus, which can be highly toxic in humans. Australian officials are continuing their research, hoping to isolate the true host of the virus. As a representative of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries puts it, "All we know is that there is something out there and it kills. We will keep testing until we trace it."