Monday, February 2, 2009

News Flash from AHA Prompts My Investigation into CEM

Effective January 30, 2009 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced that an import permit is now required for the importation of semen and embryos from the U.S. into Canada. These revised import restrictions are a result of the expanding investigation into Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) in the U.S. reads the News Flash email I received from the Arabian Horse Association today so I decided to look into it. Anything that could have prompted such a response from the Canadian government needs to be something of possible concern to my breeding business. I'd rather be on top of things knowing what's happening out there than to be caught off guard and pay the price.

The venereal disease, Contagious Equine Metritis was thought to be eradicated in the United States until its reemergence in 2005. Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease as well as the difficulty in treating it, CEM can cripple a breeding facility rendering mares temporarily sterile and infected stallions useless until cured. Obviously this outbreak in the United States is causing a stir in the equine industry as another breeding season begins.

CEM is a highly contagious bacterial infection. As the label, venereal disease, implies this disease is passed from the stallion to the mare during breeding or during artificial insemination. It can also be passed through the use of contaminated instruments in the artificial insemination process and in the handling of contaminated instruments whether preparing semen for shipment or on site insemination.

CES causes most mares to not conceive. The disease also leaves the mare as a carrier as long as she remains infected. If the mare does settle she may abort the foal. A foal of a carrier mare that does go to term will be infected and a carrier of the disease, with the disease manifesting itself at maturity.

Presenting symptoms of CES in the mare are a short estrus cycle and a copious thick discharge from the mare's vagina that usually manifests in 10 - 14 days after breeding. Gross lesions in the mare are also a symptom of this disease but are not considered to be specific to this particular infection making them not a given in the diagnostic process. A stallion should be considered suspect if he has several mares manifesting these symptoms. Chronically infected mares and stallions do not have any clinical evidence of the disease (see link above). Detection for both the mare and the stallion requires specific testing of fluids from infected areas (genitals).

Treatment can take several months. It involves treating the exterior genitalia of the mare and the stallion. Due to the nature of those organs with their many folds of tissue, it is easy for the bacteria to hide making eradication difficult at best. A small farm like mine would be crippled for an entire breeding season if not more while breeding stock was in the treatment process. Making the economic impact on my business astronomical, in this economy, it could mean the end for me.

Because of this economic impact to the equine breeding industry there is a massive search underway to track the source of the re-introduction of this bacteria to the equine breeding population of the United States. Finding the source and all infected individuals and treating them is the only way to get the outbreak under control.

Most recently this disease was reported in Kentucky during Dec of 2008. 4 stallions ( 3 quarter horses and one American paint) at a breeding facility have tested positive for the disease. This discovery helped add a piece to the puzzle of where this disease made it's entry into the United States. One of those stallions has traced back to a facility in Wisconsin where the disease was also found.

Investigations into the source of this infection (which hadn't been documented in the United States for nearly 30 years until early on in the dawning of the 21st century) have located an imported Fresian stallion (Nanning 374) that carries the disease. As explained in Progresses in Wisconsin this imported Fresian has ties to one of the stallions in the Texas outbreak, the American paint.

To show how rapidly this disease can spread, in just 4 breeding seasons, these are the statistics known to date. According to the USDA, the overall investigation includes 334 exposed horses, made up of 43 stallions and 291 mares, which are located in 39 states. Nine stallions (including Nanning 374, four in Kentucky, three in Indiana, and one in Texas) have so far tested positive.

Ohio Update reports 30 mares and 3 stallions are in quarantine in the testing/treatment process. How these horses became infected is still under investigation.

While testing of well individuals is not being encouraged at this time, tracking down the sources of the infection is imperative if the disease is to be stopped. As you can see by the types of horses listed here as infected, it didn't take long for CEM to cross over "breed lines" and infect other breeds as well. As long as all infected horses are not quarantined the disease is still being spread. How far and how fast is up for speculation, only time will tell for sure.

How this relates to my herd would be affected by when and where my breeding is done. If my herd is what is considered a "closed herd," which means a herd with no contact in a breeding capacity with other breeding animals outside of my herd during this outbreak, it would be safe to assume that my herd is not affected. However, if my herd was not a "closed herd" during this time, I would need to pay close attention to signs that might suggest an infection.

Normally I breed my own mares to my own stallions and normally haven't taken in outside mares to breed and I don't breed to outside stallions . That would make me a closed herd.

However, if you'll notice I said "normally." I do have two exceptions to this. One is the half-Arabian mare that was bred to my stallion the year the twins were born. And the other is the mare due to foal this spring. She was bred to an outside stallion, a quarter horse.

Since my stallion's breeding statistics have been and still are pretty much one cover per mare to settle a pregnancy, there is no reason to worry about the half-Arabian mare being suspect. Legs has settled all mares since then in this same manner. That would indicate both he and Goldie are clear.

The way this disease usually manifests itself would suggest that, the mere fact that my mare settled her pregnancy, indicates that she is clear as well. However, there is the outside chance (however, highly unlikely) she could still be infected and could produce an infected foal. The mere possibility is enough to warrant me following the progression of this search to be sure that the disease has not reached our state and the stallion to which my mare was bred. While I understand this is not very probable, I still think it's wise to be vigilent. I don't want to be caught off guard by CEM.

Visit Blog Village and vote daily for this blog Here They are now measuring the rankings by votes out, so if you find my blog on the site, please click that link too to improve my rankings. TY


  1. From what I'm to understand...

    "To show how rapidly this disease can spread, in just 4 breeding seasons, these are the statistics known to date. According to the USDA, the overall investigation includes 334 exposed horses, made up of 43 stallions and 291 mares, which are located in 39 states. Nine stallions (including Nanning 374, four in Kentucky, three in Indiana, and one in Texas) have so far tested positive."

    This is not from the previous 4 breeding seasons but the numbers are a reflection of the infection from the breeding farm in Kentucky THIS YEAR.

    They stood various stallions at stud and AI's many more, which is how so many stallions and resulting mares became infected.

    Also the number has been updated to 45 states with infected horses. It can be transmitted via AI through contaminated equiptment, which is how most of the horses have become infected.

    I've been tracking this since the outbreak was reported in Nov. 2008.

    In order to export horses to Canada you need a permit saying that the horse has not been exposed to any infected, or possibly infected horses, also that the to be exported horse has not been in a facility that has had a horse with CEM, in the last 12 months.

    Semen and embryos must be certified by a local vet and an US vet before shipment can occur, plus a permit also must be obtained by the person in Canada that is recieving the horse semen or embryos from the US. The permit is what my be signed by the vets.

    So far, from what I am to understand, they have been able to track most if not all of the horses from the outbreak facility and testing is still on going.

    I am so glad that my herd is closed, I will be very careful in the future when I breed to outside stallions or accept outside mares for breeding.

  2. Interesting...haven't read about this yet. Amazing how quickly something like this can get a foothold.

  3. Questions??

    Is this curable? Or once a horse becomes infected they are always a carrier and can pass this on?

    It can be transmitted through casual contact or does it have to be breeding contact?

    We have a closed herd, so have no fear of getting it through breedings, but wondered if one of my horses can get it by coming into contact with an infected horse at rodeos or horse shows.

  4. Hummm.I do not have a stud therefor I have to use outside sourses to breed her. Darn her 2 years i a row no baby either.

  5. Glad to have this info, we just had a Canadian come in wanting to go back up north, but the USDA has new paperwork, specifically because of this CEM. I wondered what in the heck is CEM and now I know. Thank you!!