A horse farm in Prince Edward Island (Canada) has been quarantined by the owners in response to a strangles outbreak. Two horses at Giddy Up Acres in Owell Cove have been diagnosed, but likely many other horses on the farm have also been exposed.
In addition to quarantining the facility, the owners are taking the temperatures of all 18 horses on the farm twice a day. This is a simple and effective infection control measures as it allows for early identification of infected horses. Since horses that are infected spike a fever a day or two before they become infectious, this type of monitoring, along with proper and prompt isolation of any horse that does develop a fever, can greatly reduce the risk of any further transmission.
The owners are also using other enhanced infection control practices (e.g. using designated clothing in different parts of the barn, disinfecting) and testing all horses in the barn. Specific details about testing weren’t provided, but given their close attention to doing things right, I suspect they are going to aim to get 3 negative nasopharyngeal swabs or nasopharyngeal washes on each horse, which is the standard recommendation to call a horse strangles-free.
The source of this strangles outbreak isn’t know. Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial disease of horses caused by Streptococcus equi. It is an endemic disease in horses and circulates relatively commonly in the horse population. It could have been brought in by a new horse, or picked up from contact with a carrier somewhere off the farm (e.g. at a show) or even on the clothing, hands or equipment of someone like a visitor, farrier or veterinarian who had recent contact with an infected horse. It seems to be fairly uncommon in PEI but it’s certainly there.
The self-imposed quarantine and voluntary use of good infection control practices is great to see. It’s a major hassle for all involved, but it’s an appropriate response, and in stark contrast to some places that try to ignore or hide outbreaks. Addressing an outbreak head-on takes time and money, and often results in negative publicity, yet ultimately it’s what needs to be done to contain an outbreak. The owners of this farm should be given top credit for their approach.