What is Glanders (Farcy)?
Glanders is a zoonotic disease, which means the bacteria can also infect humans through body fluids of an infected horse. The bacteria can also gain access through cuts, abrasions in the skin, via the eyes, or by the inhalation of the organism. If the bacteria is inhaled, clinical signs will be seen 10-14 days after exposure.
Glanders is a serious disease that is considered a bioterrorist threat, by the CDC. During World War I, World War II, and in the war in Afghanistan, the organism Burkholderia mallei was used as a weapon against civilians, soldiers, and their military horses.
If you suspect that your horse has been infected by Glanders it is imperative that you immediate quarantine him, take safety precautions, and call a veterinarian immediately.
Glanders, also called Farcy, is a very contagious disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Glanders, which is usually fatal, was once found worldwide. Fortunately, it has been eradicated in most countries. Glanders is now uncommon, the last reported case in the USA was in 2000.
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Symptoms of Glanders (Farcy) in Horses
- Deep ulcers and nodules inside the nasal passages
- Sticky yellow discharge
- Bloody discharge
- Watery eyes
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sensitivity to light
- Swollen nostrils
- Excessive sweating
- Skin rash with pustules
- Respiratory infection
- Labored breathing
- Weight loss
Causes of Glanders (Farcy) in Horses
Glanders is caused organism Burkholderia mallei which is transmitted by:
- The horse drinking from contaminated water
- Eating from contaminated food
- Close contact with an infected horse
- Exposure to infected objects such as grooming equipment, bits, and saddles
- Contaminated stall walls
- Scratching post infected with Glanders
Diagnosis of Glanders (Farcy) in Horses
The veterinarian will go over the medical history of the horse. The veterinarian will need to know what symptoms have you noticed, and when did they start. He will need to know if your horse has been in contact with other animals. The veterinarian will then perform a full physical examination. The horse’s physical exam may include:
- Listening to his heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract with a stethoscope.
- Blood pressure
- Rectal exam
- Checking the color of the gums
- Inspection of the sores and lesions
- Palpation of the limbs and muscles
- Palpation of lymph nodes
- Overall body condition of the horse
Diagnostic tests may include:
- Complete blood count - Checks the count of platelets, red and white blood cells and helps determine if there is a bacterial infection
- Urinalysis - Checks for kidney function, crystals, blood or bacteria in the urine
- If the veterinarian suspects fluid in the lungs, chest x-rays will be recommended
- Take a culture from the lesion’s discharge
- Smears of the discharged examined under a microscope to confirm the bacteria
- Serological test can also confirm the bacteria
Treatment of Glanders (Farcy) in Horses
Once Glanders is confirmed the horse must be quarantined. The bacteria can stay alive, with the right conditions, for up to one month. Stalls, water troughs, grooming tools, and saddles must be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.
Antibiotics will be prescribed to the horse. The disease may be resistant to particular antibiotics, so the use of several different medications may be required. Skin lesions and sores will need to be cleaned with an antiseptic. Medicated ointment will need to be administered to the sores. It is important for the person caring for the horse to use gloves, mask, and eye covering.
If the horse was around other animals, they too should be tested for Glanders. The organism Burkholderia mallei primarily infects horses, donkeys and mules. It is not as common, but Glanders can also be transmitted to goats, cows, dogs and cats.
Recovery of Glanders (Farcy) in Horses
The disease is usually fatal in donkeys and mules but horses have a better prognosis. Antibiotic treatment is essential for the horse’s recovery. A follow-up visit will be needed to check on the horse’s progress. Diagnostic tests will need to be retaken. Unfortunately, some horses that do survive Glanders become carriers of the disease. This means that they can infect other animals and humans.
In cases where the horse is diagnosed a carrier to the disease, he will need to live the rest of his life in quarantine. Anyone handling the horse will need to take safety precautions, such as gloves, mask or face shield. Horses are very social animals and living under quarantine will make the horse very depressed. The veterinarian may suggest euthanasia. Currently there is no vaccine against Glanders.
Glanders (Farcy) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi, I have 2 horses that have recently been diagnosed with glanders. Both of them have the exact same symtoms as mentioned on your website. I have quarantined them, and we are using various antibiotics but I am a bit bothered about what's going to happened after they surivive. Will I really have to stay away from them or wear gloves and all when going near them, or is that something that happens rarely? And will they always be a threat to other horses, even after complete recovery? Both of them are polo ponies and in the game there is a lot of contact between the horses. I will provide a list of medicines which we are using, please tell me if I need to be using anything else, along with the dosage.
Thank you so much.
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