TN vet warns of horse disease and how to prevent it

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – The state veterinarian has issued an alert advising horse owners to be aware of Potomac horse fever after there were three cases in the Middle Tennessee region.

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

“We are seeing an increase in PHF cases in Tennessee over previous years,” said state veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty. “This disease usually coincides with hot weather, which is why it is common in summer and early fall. Vaccination and risk minimization can help horse owners protect their animals.

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

Horses can be exposed to disease when drinking from streams, rivers or ponds and can suffer from anorexia, diarrhoea, colic, fever and laminitis. If a horse exhibits these symptoms, owners are urged to contact their veterinarian immediately. If left untreated, PHF can be fatal.

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

Potomac horse fever is not transmitted directly from horse to horse, nor does it pose a threat to human health.

Dr. Beaty offers the following suggestions on how owners can reduce exposure to PHFs:

  • Provide horses with fresh, clean drinking water at all times.
  • Eliminate or at least minimize horse access to creeks, streams or ponds
  • Discuss vaccination options with your veterinarian.
  • Eliminate sources of standing water where disease-carrying insects can congregate and breed.
  • Turn off barn lights that attract insects at night.

The office of the state veterinarian seeks to prevent the spread of disease through import and movement requirements, livestock traceability, disaster mitigation, and the services of the CE Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory.

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