Long-term charity resident tests positive for strangles in ‘unusual case’

  • A long-term elderly resident of Redwings Horse Sanctuary has tested positive for strangles – as the charity’s Hapton site in Norfolk is put in quarantine.

    A spokesman for Redwings said although the Hapton site is not a visitor centre, the charity is asking people who may have cause to walk through or attend a meeting at its headquarters at Hapton to adhere to strict restrictions.

    Nic de Brauwere, the charity’s head of welfare and behaviour, said a single field of ponies in one of Redwings’ resident herds at the site had been put into “precautionary quarantine”, as is the charity’s practice when any equine shows possible signs of an infectious disease, and the pony tested positive for strangles. He added that strangles is spread by direct contact with the disease or contaminated people or objects and is not airborne – so there is no risk of nearby horses’ being affected, providing all quarantine measures are followed.

    “It is a very interesting case given it was found in an elderly resident who has been at Redwings for many years, and we haven’t been managing any other cases of strangles at either this site or our quarantine yard,” said Mr Brauwere.

    “Our initial diagnosis of a tooth abscess is also affecting the pony but strangles is also in the mix of bugs affecting his sinuses, so the approach of precautionary quarantine has rewarded us with being able to limit spread even before we knew what was wrong.”

    Mr Brauwere said the pony has been moved to the charity’s dedicated quarantine yard.

    “No further cases have been identified but we have adopted an early and widespread quarantine to prevent direct spread from horse to horse, and indirectly via equipment and people,” he said.

    “The version of strangles we have identified is lacking certain key features that would typically be expected when one gets a positive test result, possibly reducing the risk of spread and severity of disease. We are investigating this with interest and will share the lessons from this case to contribute to wider knowledge of the disease.

    “We will maintain quarantine until we are assured that there are no cases on the farm. All fields in the quarantine areas have been taped off to members of the public, so it is important to adhere to the restrictions we’ve put in place.”

    Mr Brauwere added that when Redwings puts precautionary quarantine in place at its farms, staff rely on lab reports and veterinary expertise to know when to ease it.

    “We regularly deal with cases of strangles and other infectious diseases in new arrivals at our reception facility where the equines remain until they are disease-free. It’s very unusual to find a case in a longer-term resident, but we approach it in exactly the same way to ensure we haven’t missed a disease getting through our net or finding a new way into the herd.”

    Redwings has actively campaigned to improve biosecurity procedures and tackle the “stigma” associated with strangles, launching the Stamp Out Strangles campaign in 2018, and leading the annual Strangles Awareness Week, along with other equine welfare charities.

    “In light of this case we’d encourage owners to remember not to become complacent about strangles and to be prepared to respond to symptoms and signs of infectious disease until it can be ruled out. Protect horses by knowing your horse’s normal temperature and take temperatures routinely so you are better placed to respond if a horse spikes a fever,” said Andi McPherson, Redwings campaigns manager.

    “One way to be prepared for strangles is to read our Stamp Our Strangles Pledge and make that simple commitment to good biosecurity best practices. Don’t forget to get your yard involved next May to help promote disease prevention.”

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