TN veterinarian warns of horse disease, explains how to prevent it

Generic photo of a horse.
Generic photo of a horse.(MGN)
Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 8:52 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The state veterinarian issued an alert advising horse owners to be aware of Potomac Horse Fever after there were three cases in the Middle Tennessee area.

A horse in Wayne County was the third in two additional cases earlier in July in Dekalb and Rutherford Counties.

“We are seeing an uptick in PHF cases in Tennessee compared to previous years,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “This disease typically coincides with hot weather, which is why it’s common in the summer and early fall. Vaccination and minimizing risk can help horse owners protect their animals.”

The disease is caused by Neorickettsia risticii bacteria which derives from aquatic snail larvae and other hosts including flies.

Horses can be exposed to the disease when they drink from creeks, rivers or ponds and can suffer from anorexia, diarrhea, colic, fever and laminitis. If a horse presents those symptoms, owners are asked to contact their vet immediately. If left untreated PHF can be fatal.

The state veterinarian said there is a vaccine, however, it may not fully prevent infection in all cases. The vaccine will provide protection and will minimize the severity of the disease if a horse becomes infected. Horse owners should consult their veterinarian to establish a vaccine schedule.

Potomac horse fever has not been found to directly transmit from horse to horse and nor is it a threat to human health.

Dr. Beaty the following suggestions as to how owners can reduce PHF exposure:

  • Provide horses with clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
  • Eliminate or at least minimize horse access to creeks, streams, or ponds
  • Discuss vaccination options with your veterinarian.
  • Eliminate standing water sources where disease-carrying insects may gather and breed.
  • Turn off insect-attracting stable lights at night.

The State Veterinarian’s office seeks to prevent the spread of disease through import and movement requirements, livestock traceability, disaster mitigation, and the services of the C.E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory.

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