Confirmation of Strangles in Four Florida Counties

The equine community in Florida is currently facing a significant health challenge with the confirmation of strangles cases in four counties. Strangles, a contagious and potentially serious infection, has been reported in Sarasota, Hendry, Wakulla, and Lake counties. This article provides an overview of the situation, the nature of the disease, and the measures being taken to control its spread.

Overview of the Outbreak

  • Confirmed Cases: In Sarasota County, one horse has been confirmed positive and is under quarantine. Hendry County reported one positive case on January 17, with two additional suspected cases. Wakulla County has two diagnosed cases based on symptoms, with eight suspected cases, while in Lake County, one horse was confirmed positive on January 3, with four suspected cases​​​​​​​​.
  • Quarantine Measures: All affected horses are under quarantine to prevent further spread of the disease. Quarantine is a crucial step in managing strangles outbreaks, as it limits contact with non-infected horses.

Understanding Strangles in Horses

Strangles is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi. It’s highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with infected equids or contaminated surfaces. Notably, horses that aren’t showing clinical signs can still harbor and spread the bacteria.

Clinical Signs of Strangles

  • Fever
  • Swollen and/or abscessed lymph nodes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Muscle swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Veterinarians typically use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with a nasal swab, wash, or an abscess sample for diagnosis.
  • Treatment is generally based on clinical signs. Antibiotics are used for severe cases, but their overuse can prevent an infected horse from developing immunity.
  • Most horses recover fully in three to four weeks.

Prevention and Control

  • A vaccine for strangles is available, though it’s not always effective.
  • Biosecurity measures, including quarantining new horses and maintaining high standards of hygiene, are crucial in lowering the risk of an outbreak or containing one if it occurs​​​​​​​​.

Implications of the Outbreak

For the Equine Community

  • This outbreak serves as a reminder of the importance of biosecurity measures in equine facilities.
  • Horse owners and caretakers are advised to be vigilant for signs of illness and to implement strict quarantine measures for any new or sick horses.

Economic and Social Impact

  • Strangles can have significant economic implications, particularly in cases where quarantine and treatment disrupt normal operations.
  • The outbreak may affect local equine events and activities due to movement restrictions and caution exercised by horse owners.

Conclusion

The strangles cases in Florida highlight the importance of disease awareness, timely diagnosis, and effective biosecurity measures in the equine community. While the outbreak poses challenges, it also underscores the resilience and responsiveness of horse owners and veterinarians in dealing with equine diseases. As the situation evolves, continued vigilance and adherence to recommended practices will be key in managing the outbreak and protecting the health of horses across Florida.

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