Oklahoma agriculture officials are warning horse breeders that, to date, one Oklahoma mare has been identified as having been in contact with a Quarter horse stallion in Kentucky infected with contagious equine metritis (CEM), a serious venereal disease affecting horses.
The mare is under quarantine and state officials said that it is not considered a health threat of any kind.
"This is a disease that poses no threat to humans but it could potentially pose a serious economic threat to our state's horse industry," said State Veterinarian, Becky Brewer. "It is transmitted between animals during breeding and at this time we have no documentation that it can be spread through artificial insemination."
Infected stallions can carry the CEM bacteria yet show no clinical signs of the disease. Brewer informed horse owners that detecting the disease is difficult and requires multiple tests over a period of about a week to determine if a horse is infected.
Infected horses can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
"The most important thing for Oklahoma horse breeders to know at this point is that the disease is here and biosecurity measures are critical," Brewer said. "We have no knowledge of any infected stallions in Oklahoma and owners should be cautious before shipping a mare out of state for breeding.
"Breeders collecting semen for artificial insemination should also make sure they thoroughly clean and disinfect collecting equipment after each use," she said. "This is how it is being spread and keeping this equipment clean is important."
Breeding season is just beginning in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere.