Containment Measures Help Stem Ohio Strangles Flare-Up

An flare-up of strangles that surfaced at Northfield Park racetrack in Ohio nearly three weeks ago is under control, according to Director of Racing Gregg Keidel. Seven horses contracted the bacterial infection.

"The horses are doing fine," Keidel said. "In fact, two are completely (recovered) and the other five are responding well to penicillin. And we've not had a single horse in our transfer barns either exposed to an infected horse or infected."

Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by Streptococcus equi. Swelling and abscess formation in the lymph nodes beneath the horse's jaw and a thick nasal discharge are the characteristic signs of strangles infection. While the mortality rate is low, infected horses can shed the bacteria for several weeks after recovery. S. equi is spread by direct contact via the nose or mouth, or indirectly through shared water sources or feed areas.

Strangles abscesses 

As strangles progresses, abscesses usually develop in the lymph nodes of the throat. 

The outbreak was discovered during the last week in March, when horses displaying clinical signs of a respiratory ailment were identified at six different barns at the track. Track veterinarians confirmed with tests that the horses had strangles, and they began treating the infected horses with penicillin. Phoebe Smith, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor in equine internal medicine at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, was called in to advise staff on ways to contain the infection.

"The staff has done an excellent job of containment by wearing rubber gloves, plastic bags over their clothes, and cleaning their boots with bleach," Keidel said. "And they only go into infected horses' stalls once a day."

Keidel said all the infected horses are in quarantine and will remain isolated until the three-week incubation period has passed.

"If we can make it to Friday, Feb. 15, we'll be fine," he said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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