As many as 14 horses were infected with glanders, a contagious and fatal disease among equines, from April 2017 till February this year. While seven horses died a natural death, the remaining were euthanised. Glanders is a highly infectious and often fatal zoonotic disease primarily affecting horses, donkeys and mules. In February this year, the latest case of a horse being infected with glanders was detected at Dange Chowk in Pimpri Chinchwad. In Pune two horses were found infected in the upper Indira Nagar area. Two horses — one at Pimpri Chinchwad and the other in Pune — had to be euthanised while the remaining horse had a natural death.
While there are no human cases of glanders, the National Centre for Disease Control issued an alert last year to step up sero surveillance. In Maharashtra, the department of animal husbandry and department of health have been jointly working to create awareness about the disease in equines. “Lack of awareness among horse and donkey owners are key factors responsible for under-reporting of the disease,” Dr M S Diggikar, Joint Director (health), Maharashtra, told The Indian Express. Both departments have stepped up education and awareness measures regarding control of glanders and continuous veterinary education programmes. Dr D M Chavan, Additional Commissioner, Department of Animal Husbandry, said that of the 14 cases, two were from Pune, one from Pimpri Chinchwad, four from Thane, three from Akola and one each from Ahmednagar, Satara, Amravati and Buldhana. The horses which were infected with glanders had to be euthanised in Ahmednagar, Satara, Amravati, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and two in Thane. The remaining infected horses had a natural death.
As per the Census 2012 there were 37,950 horses and 32,070 donkeys in Maharashtra. The state had seen a re-emergence of the disease in 2006 and surveillance was intensified over the years, which resulted in detection of new sporadic cases almost every year from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab. Continuous surveillance revealed glanders outbreaks at Jammu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana, officials said.
According to the NCDC alert, reasonable control of the disease in glanders-endemic areas can only be achieved by a strict “testing and culling of positive animals” policy in combination with adequate reimbursement of animal owners. According to Chavan, awareness was also being created among people who use horses to earn their daily income to maintain hygiene.
“We are also encouraging them to subject the animals to screening for glanders,” an official said. So far, at least 3,500 samples have been sent to the National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), Hisar, which is a National Reference Laboratory for diagnosis of many equine diseases including glanders.