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[RC] Strangles in SE region - Karen Everhart

From my "13 horses out of 28 had strangles 3 years ago" experience.
Here is what I learned from the Internal Medicine Vets At Oklahoma State University:
1-    DO NOT GIVE THE VACCINE - the Internists there refuse to give the vaccine unless an owner demands them to do so
2-    A horse which has had Strangles in the past OR has been vaccinated can get the secondary, often fatal, complication called Purpura.  We had a horse get it and he was hospitalized for 18 days - first in ICU, near death, for nearly 2 weeks at OSU, and then in quarantine for the remainder.  He came home with 6 weeks of IV meds, etc.
3-    There will be times when you have no idea where the Strangles bacterium came from. 
4-    There are SOOOOO many strains now that the typical symptomology we look for may not be relevant
5-    Once exposed, most horses develop a high immunity to the strain they experienced.
A brief review of our experiences:
This all started in May.
We had no new horses come into the rescue for 5 months.  We had no illnesses.  One day, one horse (one of mine) showed a slightly snotty nostril and an elevated temp.  This horse had not been off the place for 1.5 years.   DX - Upper Respiratory Infection. 
Within a couple days another horse got sick, this one a rescue which had not been off the place for 1.5 years.  Same initial symptoms.  BUT, also displayed some choke signs.  Took her to the Vet.  Vet tried to tube.  Unsuccessful.  Referred to OSU for endoscope.  OSU said that there had been an outbreak of Strangles in OK.  Was this strangles?  Vet said, absolutely NO.  So, appointment was made.  I postponed the trip for one day as I was not certain she would make it without hanging IV fluids due to rapid dehydration.  She got better........within 2 days.  So, no trip to the hospital.
Then 4 more horses ill.  Called the Vet out to come and swab the noses for a culture.  By the way, NONE of the horses showed the classic submandibular abscesses.  On the day the Vet arrived the most recent "patient" showed a thumb nail sized abscess (very small) under his jawline.  It has opened and was draining.  CRAP!!!  Strangles.
We had nearly 30 horses, and all run together, so all exposed.  So, our Vet's decision was to vaccinate all which had not shown symptoms.  BIG MISTAKE!!  One of those had apparently had Strangles as a yearling (we checked with the breeder) and developed the Purpura.  He was rushed to OSU and we saved him.  Within 2 days, another developed Purpura (his 1/2 sister) but we knew what we were dealing with and got it stopped with Dex and high doses of antibiotics.  This mare was not hospitalized.
It took us over 12 weeks to get through all the sick horses and then 6 weeks of post symptomatic self-imposed quarantine.  We worked hard on isolation procedures, etc. for months.  Since then......knock on wood....nothing.
We STILL do not have a clue where it came from .  We had no horses off the place.  There had to be a carrier (remember, no new horses for 5 months) but which one????
After that experience, I will never vaccinate for Strangles again.  For 98% of the horses, this is a benign, contagious disease.  For most, they don't even go off their feed.  It just is not worth it.
As a side note - the horse which was in ICU for Purpura came back from his ordeal, which started in June and ended in early September, to win the 2006 Arabian Horse Association 1/2 Arabian National Competitive Trail Ride title. 
Just my "more than just one rat" opinion.
Karen Everhart MEd
Co-founder and Executive Director
Rainbow Meadows Rescue and Retirement, Inc.
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