Humans appear to be resistant to S. equi under normal circumstances.

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Minor, non-fatal complications include:

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Breakthrough in Strangles vaccine research

Susceptible horses develop strangles within 3–14 days of exposure. (2) Animals show typical signs of a generalized infectious process (depression, inappetence, and fever of 39°C–39.5°C). More typically of strangles, horses develop a nasal discharge (initially mucoid, rapidly thickening and purulent), a soft cough and slight but painful swelling between the mandibles, with swelling of the submandibular lymph node. Horses are often seen positioning their heads low and extended, so as to relieve the throat and lymph node pain.

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With the progression of the disease, abscesses develop in the submandibular (between the jaw bones) and/or retropharyngeal (at the back of the throat) lymph nodes. The lymph nodes become hard and very painful, and may obstruct breathing ("strangles"). The lymph node abscesses will burst (or can be lanced) in 7–14 days, releasing thick pus heavily contaminated with S. equi. The horse will usually rapidly recover once abscesses have ruptured.

Scientists have moved a step closer to developing a vaccine to protect horses from Strangles.

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Both a killed and a live vaccine are available for the control of strangles. The only killed vaccine currently available in Canada is Strepguard™ by Intervet. Killed vaccines, in general, are administered with an initial series of intramuscular injections followed by an annual booster. The initial series is started at 4 to 6 months of age with a second vaccination 2 to 4 weeks later and then annually. There may be adverse reactions at the injection site (marked pain, even frank abscesses). Some animals have even developed purpura haemorrhagica reddish-purple-coloured spots on the skin and mucous membrane associated with extravasations of blood) associated with the vaccination. The killed vaccines do not provide complete protection against infection because they do not result in the development of local, nasopharyngeal antibodies thought to be important in protection, but they may reduce the severity of clinical illness should it occur.

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S. equi is maintained in the horse population by carrier horses. The infection is highly contagious. Transmission is either by direct or indirect contact of susceptible animals with a diseased horse. The incubation period for strangles is usually 3 to 14 days. Direct contact includes contact with a horse that is incubating strangles or has just recovered from the infection, or with an apparently clinically unaffected long-term carrier. Indirect contact occurs when an animal comes in contact with a contaminated stable (buckets, feed, walls, doors) or pasture environment (grass, fences, but almost always the water troughs), or through flies. Under optimal conditions, the bacteria can survive probably six to eight weeks in the environment.

Protocol for the Management of Strangles in Horses - …

In recent years, work in the United Kingdom has added substantially to the understanding of the carrier state in strangles. (5) This work has shown that carriers are usually horses that, following recovery from clinical illness, remain with persistent infection of the guttural pouches. This infection is associated with persistent, purulent inflammation in this site or, in some cases, with the presence of chondroids. These carriers can be detected either by culture or by detection of S. equi DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. PCR is a more sensitive test but also is currently more expensive. The combination of these tests may be even more reliable, but is expensive.

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Because the organism is adapted to the horse, a system of control based on detection, isolation and treatment of carriers could potentially be used to eradicate the organism on a continent-wide basis. Horse owners and veterinarians have not yet organized to take advantage of this new understanding. However, vaccination with a live vaccine may interfere with the detection and eradication approach to control.