Foreign no more

By Connie Orcutt • Published: March 1st, 2013
Category: Animal Airwaves

Don’t look now, but another foreign disease has popped up in the United States. In 2011, veterinarians at the University of Florida found a parasite called Leishmania [leash-MAIN-ia].

Siamensis [sigh-uh-men-zis] in a local horse. And since then at least one other horse in Florida has been confirmed to have the same disease. While other varieties of this organism have been found in people and dogs in the U.S., this particular organism had previously been seen in only Thailand and Europe. The disease is transmitted by sandflies, which live in the U.S. However, nobody knows where these horses might have picked up the Leishmania organism.

Fortunately, horses with leishmaniasis [leash-mah-NĪ-a-sis] only develop skin lesions. But people and dogs can get forms of the disease that attack the whole body including the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. In fact, only malaria tops leishmaniasis as the leading parasitic cause of human deaths worldwide.

Global travel and climate change allow foreign pathogens to spread, so we all need to be vigilant in this brave new world.