Farm Talk


May 5, 2009

Veterinarian shines light on equine disease

For many horse owners, springtime means foaling and breeding time. It also means they should be aware of a venereal disease in horses that can cause infertility in mares, according to a Kansas State University equine veterinarian.

Although it has been found in several states since December, 2008, no cases of contagious equine metritis (CEM) have been confirmed in Kansas horses to date, said Maria Soledad Ferrer, an assistant professor in K-State´s Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital. Six mares in south-central Kansas were exposed to three infected stallions in Indiana, but none were confirmed to have contracted the disease.

CEM is a sexually transmitted, exotic disease of horses caused by the bacterium Taylorella equigenitalis. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the first case of CEM ever diagnosed was in England in 1977. The first case confirmed in the United States was in March, 1978. The disease is considered a foreign animal disease and although it has been eradicated more than once in the U.S., it has surfaced a few times since 1978.

According to an April 10 update by APHIS, 17 stallions and five mares in the United States have been confirmed as positive for T. equigenitalis by the USDA´s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. In addition, locations have been confirmed for 733 additional horses exposed to the bacterium. The 755 horses are located in 47 states. All positive horses, and all exposed horses that have been located, are currently under quarantine or hold order. Testing and treatment are being put into action.

There is no evidence that CEM affects people, according to APHIS K-State veterinarian Ferrer answered several questions about CEM.

•What should horse owners look for? There are no obvious external signs in stallions. Infected mares can experience temporary infertility. Mares with active inflammation present a thick mucoid vulvar discharge. Some mares may become carriers, and while they remain infective, they show no external signs.

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