Equine Glanders Fact Sheet
What is glanders?
Glanders is a highly contagious and often fatal disease of horses, donkeys and mules. It is caused by the bacteria, Burkholderia mallei.
Is glanders a risk to human health?
While spread of the disease from animals to humans is rare, glanders can be life-threatening to humans. There is no vaccine available. Humans working closely with infected horses (veterinarians, farriers, as well as laboratory workers) are at increased risk of contracting glanders. Successful treatment relies on early diagnosis.
What are the clinical signs of glanders?
Clinical signs in infected horses are often slow to appear and progress. Some cases start out with fever, nasal discharge and ulcers on the nose. Some horses may develop enlarged lymph nodes or a hard, ropey appearance under the skin. Coughing is often present, with some cases progressing to pneumonia. Some infections may last for months or years.
Donkeys often get sick very quickly. Nasal discharge and respiratory signs are common and death can occur within a few days in severe cases.
Where is glanders found?
Glanders has been eliminated in North America, Australia, Japan and Europe. It is thought to be endemic in parts of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America.
How is glanders transmitted and spread?
Glanders is spread by exposure to discharge from the nose, eyes or ulcers of an infected horse. Fomites (tack, water buckets, grooming equipment) can also transmit the bacteria.
Strict biosecurity measures are important to prevent spread of the disease. More information can be found on the CFIA's Animal Biosecurity webpage.
How is glanders diagnosed?
An owner or veterinarian may suspect glanders based on clinical signs, but the diagnosis can be confirmed only with laboratory testing.
How is glanders treated?
Treatment protocols for horses are still in the research phase and there is currently no vaccine.
What is done to protect Canadian livestock from glanders?
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) imposes strict regulations on the import of animals and animal products from countries where glanders occurs. These regulations are enforced through port of entry inspections done either by the Canada Border Services Agency or the CFIA.
Glanders is an immediately notifiable disease in Canada. All suspected cases must be reported to the CFIA.
How would the CFIA respond to an outbreak of glanders in Canada?
Canada's emergency response strategy to an outbreak of glanders would be to:
- eliminate the disease
- re-establish Canada's disease-free status as quickly as possible
In an effort to eliminate glanders, the CFIA may use some or all of the following disease control methods:
- humane euthanasia of all infected animals
- surveillance and tracing of potentially infected or exposed animals
- strict quarantine and animal movement controls to prevent spread
- strict cleaning and disinfection of infected premises
- zoning to define infected and disease-free areas
Owners whose animals are ordered to be euthanized may be eligible for compensation.
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