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Glanders Discovered in Horse in Germany

04 February 2015

GERMANY - Germany has reported Glanders in a horse in the Osnabruck region.

According to the information received, the initial serological tests (Complement Fixation Test, CFT and western blot) were carried out for routine pre-export testing in December 2014 and because these tests gave positive results, the horse was euthanased on the 17th December for diagnostic purposes.

Follow-up tests (PCR on skin samples) were also positive. The horse was one of a group of 31 horses and is the only one which was required to be euthanased.

There were no clinical signs observed. All other horses have been tested with negative results. The premises has been under restriction since December 1st 2014.

No source of infection could be identified as the horse was born in Germany and had no history of travel.

Situation Assessment Glanders is a serious bacterial disease of primarily equidae (horses, donkeys and mules) but also other species including cats and dogs.

It is caused by Burkholderia mallei affecting the lungs, respiratory tract and skin and can be chronic or acute. Glanders has a considerable health impact on the affected animals, where case fatality rates can reach 85 per cent without treatment, although the disease often takes a chronic course. Glanders also has zoonotic potential.

Transmission is through close contact with an infected animal or via food or water contaminated with the discharges from the respiratory tract or ulcerated skin lesions of infected animals or through aerosol transmission and is more likely in densely populated herds (OIE, 2015b). The incubation period varies from a few days to many months but two to six weeks is typical (Centre for Food Security and Public Health, 2007).

There is no information about the spread from the current infected premises or from other holdings where the horse was kept. The animal was born in 2008 but had only been present at the premises since November 2014 and had been kept in pre-export quarantine during some or all of that time.

Even asymptomatic horses which have a chronic infection can still be infectious and this particular animal had skin scabs which tested positive for B.mallei. Germany has not reported locally acquired cases of Glanders for many years although cases have occasionally occurred in the past from importing horses from endemic countries (Elschner et al., 2009).

The disease is endemic in certain areas (for example in some countries in the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa) and those areas are not approved for the export of horses, semen, ova and embryos to the UK and EU under Commission Decision 2004/211/EC. All imports must come from a territory free of Glanders for at least six months. Permanent imports require a negative pre-export test taken within 21 days of export.

For intra-community trade, six months freedom from Glanders is required at the premises only level ((under Council Directive 2009/156/EC). In view of the current disease report from Germany, recent equine consignments have been investigated.

According to the EU Electronic Trade Notification System (TRACES), there have been just three consignments of equidae from Osnabruck region, Germany to the UK since early December 2014. None are from the currently affected premises. There have been no consignments of equine embryos, semen or ova from Germany.

© Crown copyright 2014.

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