PAINESVILLE, Ohio – The flu season hit Northeast Ohio early – and hard.
But, this year, Lake County is battling a new outbreak … in the stables.
“There is just some illness in one of the barns,” said Georgianna Adams, director for Lake County Fairgrounds. “Everyone on the fairgrounds is aware of it. We’re practicing safety rules, as far as not turning horses out that are ill.”
Adams manages the stables at the fairgrounds. It boards up to 50 horses a year. In recent weeks, she started noticing something strange.
“The symptoms that the first horse had was like, cold-like symptoms, like a runny nose, that type of thing,” she said.
Adams then went to veterinarian Rob Schwartz for help.
Schwartz works at Big Creek Veterinary Hospital. He said he hasn’t seen any other outbreak in the area, but believes this is a potential case of “strangles,” essentially a flu-like disease with serious consequences.
“Not eating and when you have a fever, you don’t feel like doing much,” Schwartz said. “You stop eating. You stop drinking. Then horses can get something colic, basically abdominal pain. If they don’t drink enough, they can get dehydrated and then they get other issues.”
Schwartz said at least four horses have the mystery illness. The animals have been quarantined, but there is still risk. People can carry the disease from one horse to the next.
“You have a lot of different people,” he said. “There’s not just one person taking care of the horses. Everybody as an individual wants to take care of their own horse. That makes it a nightmare as far as disease control goes. “
If the disease is strangles, Schwartz said it is rarely deadly. Research shows that about one percent of infected horses actually die from the illness.
“We’re doing a lot, trying to prevent disease spread,” Schwartz said. “Once it’s there, it’s going to have to be there and run its course, unfortunately. We just want to be sure it stays there versus somebody going to that barn and going to their own horses, for example.”
Cultures of the infection have been sent in to a lab, and the fairgrounds expect to get results by next week, Schwartz said.