EQUUS - - Eq Conversati­ons -

If you’re in an area with warm­ing weather trends, dis­eases that were pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered rare may sud­denly ap­pear on your radar. Re­cently, a pi­geon fever out­break in Mis­souri had vet­eri­nar­i­ans and dis­ease spe­cial­ists more than a lit­tle con­cerned.

Pre­vi­ously, cases of pi­geon fever had been few and far be­tween in the state, which has a con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate— cold win­ters and hot and hu­mid sum­mers. Not ideal for pi­geon fever.

“Be­fore the sum­mer of 2012, I per­son­ally had seen only two con­firmed cases in Mis­souri,” says Philip John­son, BVSc, MS, MRCVS, DACVIM, of the Univer­sity of Mis­souri. “That sum­mer we saw a hand­ful of cases at the univer­sity teach­ing hos­pi­tal and heard about many more in the field in Mis­souri.”

Pi­geon fever, caused by Co­rynebac­terium pseu­do­tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, is most of­ten seen in hot, dry cli­mates like that of Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Colorado and Texas. Signs of the dis­ease in­clude painful swelling, ab­scesses and in­flam­ma­tion in the legs, chest and ab­dom­i­nal cav­i­ties. But the out­break in Mis­souri wasn’t en­tirely a mys­tery.

“There was a se­vere drought that sum­mer,” says John­son, “fol­lowed by wet weather in the fall—th­ese weather con­di­tions are fa­vor­able to pi­geon fever. I sus­pect this dis­ease will be more common in Mis­souri and other Mid­west­ern states from here on out.”

There is no vac­cine for pi­geon fever, but if spring and sum­mer are be­com­ing warmer in your area and mos­qui­toes and other dis­ease-car­ry­ing in­sects en­joy a longer ac­tive sea­son, don’t be sur­prised if your vet­eri­nar­ian sug­gests adding one or two vac­cines to your horse’s reg­i­men. In ad­di­tion to the “core” vac­ci­na­tions—against tetanus, east­ern/western equine en­cephalomye­li­tis, West Nile virus and ra­bies—that are rec­om­mended for all horses, your vet­eri­nar­ian may de­ter­mine that your horse now needs pro­tec­tion against other vi­ral or bac­te­rial dis­eases.

And, of course, your vet­eri­nar­ian is your first and best re­source when it comes to dis­ease out­breaks in your area. Don’t rely on the ru­mor mill or so­cial me­dia for in­for­ma­tion. Con­sider book­mark­ing your state vet­eri­nar­ian’s of­fice or your state depart­ment of agri­cul­ture to get ac­cu­rate and up-to-date in­for­ma­tion. Another good re­source is the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s An­i­mal and Plant Health In­spec­tion Ser­vice at www.aphis.usda.gov.

Co­rynebac­terium pseu­do­tu­ber­cu­lo­sis

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