A Belmont Park backstretch worker likely died of a rare bacterial infection, according to the state Health Department and testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The employee, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, was found unconscious on June 1 outside a housing unit in the Belmont backstretch where he or she lived. The worker was then transported to a hospital, but later died on June 6.
According to the CDC and Department of Health, the cause of death was likely bacterial sepsis, in this case stemming from an infection of Klebsiella spreading throughout the body.
The infection can prove fatal if the immune system is overwhelmed.
The New York State Department of Health previously suspected it was a case of hantavirus, an infection caused by a virus in rodent droppings, because most people contract the infection by breathing in the excretions in confined areas.
A commercial lab in California had also found a positive result for hantavirus, but the CDC came up with a negative result.
The New York Racing Association, which runs the horse races at Belmont, has relocated employees living in “substandard housing,” will continue “remediation efforts” under the department’s oversight, and “immediately overhaul its pest management practices,” according to the state Health Department.
Among the planned changes are “rigorous building maintenance to limit routes of entry,” a new waste management strategy, closer monitoring, and better rodent control and trapping practices.
“NYRA is committed to modernizing backstretch facilities at Belmont Park to support the health and well-being of the backstretch community,” Pat McKenna, the communications director for NYRA, said in a statement. “NYRA will continue to address pest control measures throughout Belmont Park and will implement all of New York State’s recommendations.”