From Incident to Outbreak: Managing Equine Infectious Disease

Proper planning can help prevent a disease episode on your farm from becoming a full-blown outbreak.
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From Incident to Outbreak
Have a setup so your can isolate feverish horses as far from the other horses on your property as possible, and prevent sick and healthy horses from sharing equipment, air space, etc. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

How proper planning can help prevent a disease episode on your farm from becoming a full-blown outbreak

A few days after arriving home from a horse show, your typically spirited, playful gelding seems lethargic and refuses to eat. A quick temperature check reveals he’s also spiked a fever. Chances are, he acquired a virus from one of many horses stabled at the showgrounds.

The plans you’ve made and the steps you now take could mean the difference between one sick horse and a multi-horse disease outbreak on the farm. Josie Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of equine medicine at Colorado State University and an equine commodity specialist for USDA-APHIS-VS Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, and Katie Flynn, BVMS, equine staff veterinarian with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, walk us through what to do when infectious disease raises its ugly (and unwelcome) head.

Step 1: Isolation

Clinical signs that could warn of infectious disease include fever, lethargy, anorexia, nasal discharge, cough, diarrhea, and neurologic signs evident as behavior changes (abnormal gait, unusual posture, or unsteadiness), among others. The possible diseases at work run the gamut from the more common West Nile virus or influenza to the less common and often scarier equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) or vesicular stomatitis

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Written by:

Connie Lechleitner is a freelance writer who lives in New Philadelphia, Ohio. She has worked in the equine association industry and has been a horse owner and breeder for many years.

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