Dealing with a disease outbreak situation
In any disease outbreak, a priority is to limit the spread of the disease, that is to say, it is critical to curtail the spread from sick/infected horses to healthy ones. Your veterinarian will be key in making suitable recommendations for your farm or barn situation.
Sick horses should be moved into a separate area (field, paddock or barn). A separate barn is the ideal situation, or, if there is only one barn available, the patient can be "isolated" in a stall at the end of the barn and a barrier erected (e.g. tape or rope). Signs need to be posted to inform people entering the barn that this end is the "dirty" end.
Contact your veterinarian. Examination of horses in the early stages of any disease will increase the chances of a diagnosis being made, and the cause (e.g. virus or bacterium) identified. Knowing this will help your veterinarian make effective plans to both help your horse recover quicker and mitigate the outbreak.
Horses in contact with the sick ones should not be moved off the farm.
Sick animals should be treated, fed, watered and attended to, after the healthy ones. Alternatively, the sick/quarantined horses and the healthy horses should be looked after by different people.
Persons attending to the sick horse(s) should wear protective clothing including separate coveralls, gloves, and boots that are NOT used when around the healthy stock. They should wash their hands after handling the horse or its buckets, brushes etc., or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser. Footbaths containing an appropriate disinfectant solution and placed outside the ‘dirty' area can be used; discuss these with your veterinarian first. Daily attention needs to be paid to their cleanliness for them to remain effective.
Areas in which the sick horse has been or continues to be should be cleaned and disinfected as required (including the trailer!). Consult with your veterinarian as to a proper protocol: a thorough washing of hard surfaces should occur after organic material – bedding, manure – has been removed. Disinfectant should only be applied to clean surfaces and label directions for its proper use should be followed carefully.
Water pails, feed tubs and other equipment used around the sick horse should not be shared with healthy horses. They should also be cleaned with appropriate products determined to be safe for this use.