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Contagious equine metritis

In the UK, isolation of an organism known or suspected to be T. equigenitalis (CEMO) is notifiable by law. In Great Britain (GB) (England, Scotland and Wales) this is a statutory requirement under the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987 and any suspected or positive samples must be reported by the testing laboratory to the local Field Service office of the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA). In England please use the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 0300 020 0301. In Wales please use 0300 303 8268 and In Scotland please contact the local APHA office (see Appendix 1)  In Northern Ireland, the report must be made to the government authorities.

Following an extended consultation between Government and the equine industry a new industry-led Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) control protocol came into effect on 1 February 2018 as an initial pilot scheme in England, Scotland and Wales; there will be no change in the arrangements for control of CEM in Northern Ireland (for more details please see Appendix 11). CEM remains notifiable throughout the UK and, as such, the disease will continue to be confirmed by the APHA Veterinary Exotic and Notifiable Diseases Unit (VENDU) on behalf of the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) in the country in GB where the disease is suspected,. 

The basis of the new 'pilot' scheme in GB is that when APHA is notified by a laboratory of a suspect T. equigenitalis isolation, APHA will inform the owner/agent of the horse of the suspicious result and ask the owner/agent whether, if CEM is confirmed and they are compliant with the Code of Practice, they wish to take part in the pilot. 

If they elect to take part in the pilot, further investigation will be carried out by an Approved Veterinary Surgeon (AVS) appointed by the Animal Health Trust (AHT).  The owner or agent has 24 hours to inform AHT of their agreement and to provide AHT with the required information about the infected horse(s), the premises and the attending veterinary surgeon involved.  AHT will appoint an appropriate AVS, in agreement with the owner/keeper, who, if CEM is confirmed, will visit the positive horse and premises and will advise AHT whether the situation is compliant with the Code of Practice or not.  The AVS may be the attending veterinary surgeon if he/she is on the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Approved Veterinary Surgeon (AVS) list and if he/she consents to this responsibility. 

If the owner does not wish to take part in the pilot or the premises are not compliant with the Code of Practice, AHT will advise Defra of this and APHA will take over the investigation and may make charges.  Defra may serve Statutory Notices on the affected premises, declaring them an infected place and imposing mandatory requirements, including:

  • taking samples or obtaining information to establish the source and extent of disease;
  • prohibiting or controlling movement of any horse, carcase or other item;
  • prohibiting the breeding activities of any implicated horses;
  • disinfection or destruction of infected articles or materials;
  • cleansing and disinfection of premises and vehicles.

In the event of statutory powers being invoked, Defra would nominate the laboratories to undertake the testing of all samples required by the subsequent investigation.

Failure to comply with Statutory Notices is an offence under the Animal Health Act 1981 and may lead to prosecution.

It is advisable for owners, or a person authorised to act on their behalf, to inform the national breeders’ association if CEMO is isolated.

Thereafter, the outbreak and any contacts will be investigated, infected horses treated and re-tested as recommended by this Code of Practice until all infected horses are shown to have been repeatedly tested negative.  If AHT is involved, it will then notify Defra that this is the case and Defra will, if the CVO is satisfied, declare the outbreak over.

Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa

In the UK, isolation of K. pneumoniae or P. aeruginosa is not notifiable by law. However, if infection occurs in stallions, it is advisable for the owner, or a person authorised to act on their behalf, to inform the national breeders’ association.