It has been known for many years that opossums spread equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) through their feces, but complete eradication of the marsupial on farms may be next to impossible. As opossums offer environmental benefits like eating ticks and other pests, complete removal may also not be recommended, reports The Horse.
Opossums can be found throughout most of the United States, so it's not surprising that blood tests show that many horses have been infected with S. neurona. In the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, over 75 percent of horses residing there have antibodies against S. neurona circulating in their blood.
Thankfully, most horses are able to control the infection, though some horses are do suffer from effects of the disease. It is not understood what makes some horses targets for developing EPM, though genetics and environmental factors like nutrition or the environment may play a role.
While complete eradication of opossums, and the risk of EPM transmission, from a farm is likely impossible, it is in farm owners and equine caretakers' best interest to make efforts to keep opossums out of the barn and away from feed and water. This may reduce the likelihood of horses contracting EPM.
Read more at The Horse.
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