Who knew that riding a sick horse can be hazardous to your health, even fatal? Such a freak occurrence took place earlier this year, the week of 21 February 2016, when an elderly woman from Seattle died under just such rare circumstances. According to reports, the unnamed 71-year-old woman was visiting the horse boarding and riding centre belonging to her daughter in February this year in King County, Washington state, as reported by Live Science. It appears that one of the horses at the centre was suffering from an infection, which manifested itself through nasal and eye discharge and lethargy. The sickness cleared up after being treated with antibiotics, but both the woman in question and her daughter rode and petted the horse that week, in the case of the mother, petting the horse for at least 2 days, February 25 and 29.
The woman subsequently developed some kind of infection of the upper respiratory tract and her daughter contracted a mild cough and sore throat. On 2 March, the woman began vomiting and experiencing diarrhoea. She was discovered unconscious on 3 March and died at the hospital, according to reports from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). The test results on the mother, the daughter (who recovered) and the horse all came out as positive for S. zooepidemicus, a type of streptococcus infection which typically affects horses, cats, pigs and other animals. It is rare for it to infect humans, and when that happens, it is usually as a result of consuming unpasteurised dairy products. The symptoms include trouble breathing, weakness, chills, fever, inflammation of the kidneys and arthritis. The elderly woman may have had an increased risk of infection because of her age. The daughter stated that neither she nor her mother had consumed any unpasteurised dairy and apart from the horses, the only other animal they had both come into contact with was one healthy cat.
The CDC recommends that people always wash their hands after coming into contact with horses and other animals. There have been 32 cases of S. zooepidemicus reported among humans, 7 of which have been fatal. In this story, it remains unclear how the bacterial infection was connected to the woman’s respiratory sickness. It could have come about from a separate previous illness and made her more vulnerable to infection from the horse.
The report stated that more research is needed into the conditions that put humans at risk from catching S. zooepidemicus from animals, as well as more understanding of the various symptoms people can exhibit when they are infected.
Picture courtesy of www.pets4homes.co.uk