A horse in Madison County, FL has been confirmed positive for rabies, according to an update from the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC).

Beautiful horses
Public domain image/Dusan Bicanski

The equine, the first that tested positive for the dangerous virus, is the first equine rabies case in Madison County and the first for Florida in 2016.

The premise with one remaining exposed horse and no previous rabies vaccine history has been placed under quarantine.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) includes rabies among four “core” vaccines for horses–Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, tetanus and West Nile virus are the others.

In addition, on March 1, two cases of strangles were reported by Florida veterinarians. One confirmed strangles positive premises in St. Lucie County had one clinical out of 10 total horses on the property. The other premises located in Miami-Dade County had one clinical horse and 30 total horses at the facility. Both facilities were placed under quarantine. This is the first reported case of strangles for St. Lucie and Miami-Dade Counties and the ninth and tenth cases for Florida in 2016.

Strangles poses no risk to humans, but is highly contagious and common among horses.  Strangles is caused by infection with Streptococcus equi subspecies equi.  Symptoms include fever, diminished appetite, nasal discharge (that begins clear and turns purulent) and enlarged submandibular lymph nodes that can become abscessed.  It is in the obstructed breathing caused by enlarged lymph nodes and in rare cases death by suffocation that the disease received its name.  In most cases, infection with S. equi self-resolves, but this disease has a death rate of about ten percent, usually from complications involving spread beyond the head and neck, including pneumonia.

Transmission occurs by direct contact between animals and via fomites or water sources.  Treatment can include chemotherapy with antibiotics if initiated in the very early stage of the disease or as post-exposure prophylaxis; otherwise, initiation of antibiotic treatment is not recommended due to evidence that it can prolong infection or inhibit formation of post-infection immunity.  As about twenty percent of cases become asymptomatic nasal carriers, vaccination is the considered the best method of control.