CEM case confirmed in Co. Galway... But what is CEM?!

I saw in the Irish Independent that The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has confirmed that a non-thoroughbred stallion has tested positive for Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) in Co. Galway. This is the first positive result in Ireland in 30 years so comes as a bit of a shock to breeders and stud owners.

Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Taylorella equigenitalis. It can affect all breeds of horses but fortunately it can not be transferred to humans (phew!!). CEM itself isn't a deadly or dangerous disease but poses a huge economic problem due to a mares inability to get in foal, fetal loss as well at the testing, quarantining and treating of those who test positive. So although it isn't a fatal disease it is still something to be worried about.

How does CEM spread?
Stallions are carriers only and do not show any signs of infection and are capable or harbouring the disease un-noticed for many years. The stallion passes the bacteria to a mare who in turn can infect other stallions. Foals born to infected mothers may also be affected.
CEM can be spread directly or indirectly. Direct transmission involves the transmission of bacteria from mare to a stallion / teaser or from a stallion / teaser to a mare at the time of mating or teasing. Those who use AI methods are also at risk if the stallion is infected. Indirect transmission can occur through contaminated utensils or instruments such as foaling equipment, tail bandages, buckets, gloves etc.

What are the signs and symptoms of CEM?
Stallions themselves to not show any symptoms because they simply carry the disease on their genitalia.
There are 2 phases of infections in mares - acute and chronic (carrier).
The acute phase results in a thick milky white discharge from the vulva 10 - 14 days after being infected (although not all mares will develop a discharge). The discharge can subside after a few days, however the mares may remain infected. Chronically infected mares show no signs or symptoms but remain highly infectious until the infection is cleared.
Mares that are infected are usually temporaily infertile and most mares do not conceive at the time of an infected mating (if they do the foal may be infected too).

How is CEM diagnosed?
CEM is diagnosed by swabbing the vaginal discharge, clitoris and cervix in mares. In stallions swabs are obtained from the penis, prepuce, urethral fossa and sinus, distal urethra and pre-ejaculatory or ejaculate fluid. The swabs are then sent to an approved lab to be cultured.

How is CEM treated?
In most cases, CEM can be successfully treated with disinfectants and antibiotics. One course of treatment may only be needed in a stallion. Eliminating CEM in a mare is a little more difficult and it can take several weeks or months to recover. Once the mare is no longer infected she may be bred from again.
The prognosis for both mare and stallions are excellent. There are no reported cases of horse fatalities due to CEM. With careful management and treatment they return to full health with no long term damage. Hurray for that! :D 

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