Horse Health Emergency in Kentucky: “Bring in the Feds!” State Officials Say, As Labs ID Two More CEM-Infected Stallions

Here’s an update from Kentucky, where two more stallions have been found to be infected with Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), an equine venereal disease that does not affect stallions, who are carriers, but can cause abortion and long-term fertility problems in mares.

Via press release on December 18:

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer to move quickly to declare a state of agricultural emergency and commit federal funds in connection with an outbreak of contagious equine metritis in central Kentucky.

The request is a proactive measure to ensure that sufficient resources are available to manage the disease outbreak, Commissioner Farmer said.

“It is important for the people of Kentucky to understand that this could be a serious situation in our signature equine industry,” Commissioner Farmer said. “The state is working with federal authorities to contain the outbreak and determine its source.”

Kentucky’s horse industry has a total estimated economic impact of approximately $5 billion a year. The horse industry generates an estimated 80,000-100,000 jobs, and another 14,000 jobs come from tourism businesses related to the horse industry. Kentucky farm cash receipts for equine, including stud fees, are estimated at $1 billion annually.

Two more stallions have tested positive for contagious equine metritis, making a total of three from a single central Kentucky farm. The stallions added to the list are a 13-year-old quarter horse and a 4-year-old registered with the American Paint Horse Association. A 16-year-old quarter horse tested positive on Dec. 10, and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the result on Dec. 15. The affected stallions and all exposed horses on the farm have been quarantined.

Testing was performed by the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington. “The expertise available at LDDC greatly enhances our ability to respond both quickly and effectively to disease outbreaks,” State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said.

Commissioner Farmer is closely monitoring the investigation and has informed Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear of the progress of the investigation. The Governor has assured Commissioner Farmer that he understands the seriousness of the situation and has pledged to work with the Commissioner to address the matter.

“The state is acting aggressively to contain and mitigate this disease,” Commissioner Farmer said. “Our interstate and international trading partners can be confident that Kentucky will employ all necessary resources to deal with this situation.”

Contagious equine metritis is a transmissible, exotic venereal disease in horses. It usually results in infertility in mares and, on rare occasions, can cause mares to spontaneously abort. Infected stallions exhibit no clinical signs but can carry the CEM bacteria for years. CEM is commonly transmitted during sexual intercourse but also may be transmitted indirectly through artificial insemination or contact with contaminated hands or objects. CEM can be treated with disinfectants and antibiotics.

There is no evidence that CEM affects people




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