Preventing Infectious Disease

Preventing infectious disease involves:

  1. Working with your veterinarian to develop a plan.
  2. Maintaining accurate records for each horse – record events, routine and otherwise.
  3. Having a current vaccination protocol designed for your horse(s) and your premises. Your veterinarian may recommend certain vaccines as standard for all horses, and then additional ones depending on your horse's risk of contracting them.
  4. Infectious disease control measures or "biosecurity":
    1. Evaluate your premise in terms of what can increase your horse's risk of disease. Ask your veterinarian to provide input. For example, let's use a barn that is a busy boarding and showing facility where there are always numerous people entering the barn and contacting the horses. You are worried about bringing infectious Strangles into the barn because you have heard that the bacteria can be transmitted to susceptible horses by people whose hands are contaminated.
    2. Develop a plan to combat these risks, and write it down. In our example, hand washing between handling different horses will be recommended so that an infectious agent (like Streptococcus equi) isn't transmitted unintentionally from one horse to another.
    3. Make sure everyone is aware of the protocols in place, including visitors. In the case of our example, install alcohol-based hand cleansers in appropriate and convenient locations, with clearly visible signage.
    4. Have a plan in place should an infectious disease outbreak occur to stop its spread:
      1. Isolation for the sick horse – either in a separate barn, or at the end of the barn that is 'taped off' and makes use of an empty stall as a buffer zone. Use signs to identify this as a 'sick area'.
      2. Have separate equipment for sick horses.
      3. Separate staff should care for the sick horses if possible. At the very least, the care-takers should wear protective clothing that stays in the sick area, along with disposable gloves. Hands should be washed before and after. Handle the sick animals after the healthy ones.

For more detailed information on Preventing Infectious Disease, refer to the section on "Vaccination."

Equine Guelph has further information on this topic on-line