Voluntary CEM Surveillance Testing Announced

Stallion owners are asked to participate in a voluntary surveillance test effort for contagious equine metritis (CEM) in order to help animal health authorities collect accurate information on the presence (or absence) of the disease in the United States. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's veterinary services program has set a goal of 3,000 participants in this initiative.

The plan was outlined in a stakeholder's announcement and FAQs.

Ellen Buck, DVM, veterinary medical officer for APHIS, discussed the plan during a panel discussion on CEM at the 2009 AAEP Convention. She said the group was contacted by stallion owners who wanted reassurance their animals were clear during a recent outbreak. While their horses weren't tested in connection with the investigation, she's hoping these same owners will "step up to the plate" and volunteer to participate within this screening effort's reduced cost structure.

"It's an opportunity to find out, without great financial impact, that your horse is free of CEM," said APHIS spokesman Jim Barrett.

CEM is caused by a bacterium called Taylorella equigenitalis. It is a transmissible, exotic venereal disease in horses. It usually results in infertility in mares and, on rare occasions, can cause mares to spontaneously abort. Infected stallions exhibit no clinical signs but can carry the CEM bacteria for years. CEM is commonly transmitted during sexual intercourse but also might be transmitted indirectly through artificial insemination or contact with contaminated hands or objects. It can be treated with disinfectants and antibiotics. See an APHIS fact sheet.

An ongoing investigation, which began in December 2008, uncovered 22 positive stallions and five positive mares. Authorities located 992 exposed animals, of which 93.5% have completed testing and treatment and are known to be free of T. equigenitalis.

"We felt confident that we did not have endemic CEM, but this outbreak certainly raised that specter," Buck said.

This final survey is designed to increase the confidence that the disease has been eradicated in the United States through the efforts to contain this disease incident.

For the surveillance effort, all samples must be collected by an accredited practitioner. APHIS will pay for laboratory diagnostic testing costs and shipment of samples to an approved CEM laboratory, but will not pay for sample collection costs.

Any stallion found to be positive will be quarantined, then treated and re-tested at APHIS' expense. APHIS will pay for the shipping of samples and the laboratory diagnostic testing associated with tracing, testing and treatment horses exposed to positive stallions, but will not pay for sample collection, test mares, or treatment. More information is available in the stakeholder's announcement.

The sampling will begin this month. Stallion owners or accredited equine practitioners interested in participating should contact a Veterinary Services area office or a state animal health office to volunteer. Find contact information for your nearest office.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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