Glanders on the rise in animals

12:19 pm Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Although no human case has been reported in India, it is better to adhere to precautionary measures

New Delhi, 08 January 2018: According to statistics, the incidence of ‘glanders’ is on the rise in animals.  In 2014/15,3 cases were noted in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir; in 2015/16, 5 states (Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Gujarat) reported instances; and it has been reported from 9 states in 2016/17.Glanders is a rare disease with asymptomatically infected animals posing a risk to humans as well.

Glanders is a highly infectious and often fatal zoonotic disease primarily affecting horses, donkeys and mules. It is a notifiable disease of equines caused by Gram-negative bacterium, Burkholderia mallei. Humans are accidental hosts and human to human transmission is rare.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Glanders has traditionally been clinically categorized into nasal, pulmonary and cutaneous forms based on the most commonly affected organ systems in equines. B. mallei is transmitted to humans through contact with tissues or body fluids of infected animals. The bacteria enter the body through cuts or abrasions in the skin and through mucosal surfaces such as the conjunctiva and nose. The infection may occur by inhaling infected aerosol dust. Animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission of glanders is rare. Despite many reported cases of the disease in equines, no human case of glanders has been reported in India till date.”

The clinical symptoms of glanders in humans are non- specific therefore accurate diagnosis and treatment is difficult. The symptoms in humans include low- grade fever and chills, malaise, fatigue, myalgias, backache, headache, rigors, chest pain and lymphadenopathy.

Due to its high death rate and the small number of organisms needed to cause infection, B. mallei is considered a potential biological warfare or bioterrorism agent. It can also be transmitted by aerosol and is known to be resistant to multiple antibiotics. “Do not ignore nodules and discharging ulcers in nose, lungs and skin in these animals,” tweeted Dr Aggarwal @drkkaggarwal.

Some tips to prevent infection from B. mallei include the following.

  • Avoid contact with soil and standing water, especially if you have diabetes or open skin lesions.
  • Wear boots while doing any kind of agricultural work.
  • Do not handle sick or dead animal bodies, especially in areas with prevalence of this disease. If you must handle sick or dead animal bodies, use gloves, eye protection, and a mask.
  • It is always a good idea to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

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