Restrictions in western Delhi after glanders cases found in horses

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A horse with cutaneous nodules of glanders on the legs.
A horse with cutaneous nodules of glanders on the legs. © University of Zagreb

Recent cases of the much-feared disease glanders have prompted authorities in Delhi to clamp down on the movement of donkeys, horses and mules in the Indian capital.

The three-month ban applies to the city’s western district.

Veterinary officials of the Animal Husbandry Unit will monitor the area for the disease and collect further samples for testing.

Seven of 13 samples taken from equines in the west city have tested positive for the disease. The animals were euthanized.

Divisional Commissioner Manisha Saxena is urging owners to get their animals tested at the Government laboratory in Hisar.

There are about 2700 equines in Delhi, 2012 animal census figures suggest. They are mostly used for light carriage work, especially for transporting married couples on their wedding day. Some are also used in riding schools. Most are believed to be of the native Marwari breed.

The ruling by the local government means the western region of the city is now a controlled area for glanders.

Glanders cases have been reported in 12 Indian states in recent years, involving some 200 equines.

It is a life-threatening, notifiable zoonotic disease which can be fatal to both animals and humans. It is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei.

The highly infectious disease was known from ancient times, and recognized as a horse disease by Hippocrates and Aristotle.

Signs include lung lesions and ulceration of mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. The acute form results in coughing and fever, followed by septicaemia and death within days. In chronic cases, nodules form on the skin and in the nasal passages, eventually ulcerating. Death can result within months, with those surviving acting as carriers.

The only known reservoirs of B. mallei are single-hooved animals, particularly horses. Chronically infected horses can be free of symptoms but may remain highly infectious.

Due to its high death rate and the small number of organisms needed to cause infection, it is considered a potential biological warfare or bioterrorism agent.

It can be transmitted by aerosol and is known to be resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Although glanders has been eradicated from many Western countries, it recently emerged in Asia, the Middle-East, Africa, and South America.

Due to its rareness, little is known about outbreak dynamics of the disease.

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