Potomac Horse Fever Confirmed in 26 Horses in KY

The first confirmed case of Potomac horse fever (PHF) diagnosed in Kentucky during calendar year 2018 was reported on June 1, 2018. Through the week ending August 25, a total of 26 cases have been confirmed. Confirmation of each case was by PCR testing and compatible clinical symptoms observed.

Historically, Kentucky’s PHF cases are first detected later in the year (mid-July), and the early detection this year was most probably associated with abundant wet weather in April and record-breaking warm temperatures in May.

Horsemen are encouraged to review the environment their horses are housed and consult their veterinarians on strategies they may use to mitigate disease risk. Minimizing opportunity for horses to ingest aquatic insects by turning off lights in and around barns and other areas at night has been suggested.

Potomac horse fever (PHF) is described to be an acute enterocolitis syndrome that presents as mild colic, fever and diarrhea in horses of all ages. The resulting illness can also cause abortion in pregnant mares. The causative agent, Neorickettsia risticii, is a gram-negative bacterium. Infection of the large intestine results in an acute colitis, which is one of the principal clinical signs of PHF. While the disease is often associated with pastures bordering creeks or rivers; it is believed most horses contract PHF after inadvertent ingestion of aquatic insects that carry N risticii and not the water source.

Of the confirmed cases, they are broken down by county as follows: Bourbon – 11; Bracken – 1; Fayette – 3; Franklin – 1; Harrison – 1; Metcalfe – 1; Scott – 4; Shelby – 1; Woodford – 3. Twenty of the cases were female and 6 were male. The median age was 5. The most-effected breed was Thoroughbred (18), followed by Standardbred (2), Tennessee Walking Horse (2); Trakehner, American Saddlebred, Paint and Quarter Horse with one case each. Six horses have died and 20 have survived to date.

Read more at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

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