State veterinarian urges horse owners to travel with caution

Two cases of equine infection known as “strangles” reported in Clark County

After two positive confirmations of streptococcus equi bacterial infection (commonly known as strangles or equine distemper) and several more likely positives on one property in Clark County, Dr. JJ Goicoechea, state veterinarian for the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA), stresses the importance of best biosecurity practices to minimize the risk of spreading disease.

 “To date, only one facility is affected, and I have recommended a 21-day hold – no horses in or out of that facility, beginning Feb. 20, to slow the spread of disease,” Dr. Goicoechea said.

 Per Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) Chapter 571.160, details regarding animal disease reports must be kept confidential unless there is a public health risk. Because strangles cannot be transferred from horses to humans, there is no such risk at this time.

 “It is not uncommon to see cases of upper respiratory diseases in horses this time of year, and we notify local veterinarians and associations when we have new cases,” Dr. Goicoechea said. “We haven’t issued any quarantine orders, but our primary focus is stopping the spread of disease, especially as we approach horse show and event season in the west.”

 Biosecurity means doing everything possible to reduce chances of an infectious disease being transferred by people, animals, equipment or vehicles. The bacteria that causes strangles is easily transferred on boots, coats, gloves and equipment. Some basic practices include:

  1. Never share equipment between horses, and always wear clean clothes when going from ill horses to others. 
  2. Always start chores at healthy horses, and end with sick or recovering (within 30 days) horses.
  3. Avoid common areas such as hitching rails, wash racks, etc. during an outbreak.

“Please monitor your horses for symptoms including a cough or runny nose and consult with your veterinarian to ensure vaccinations are current,” Dr. Goicoechea said. “If you suspect your horse may be exhibiting signs of illness, contact your veterinarian and do not allow contact with other horses.”

Per NRS Chapter 571.160, any animal owner or practicing veterinarian who has knowledge of a confirmed case of a reportable disease, shall immediately notify the NDA Animal Disease Laboratory. A list of reportable diseases can be found atagri.nv.gov.

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