From pulling a plow over a farmer’s field to carrying a cowboy across the open range, horses have always had an important role in society. Today, horses are generally considered companion animals, with close to 2 million U.S. households reporting horse ownership. Riding and working around horses have been shown to increase balance, self-confidence, and self-esteem. However, as with any animal, you must be aware of the risk for diseases passed between horses and people.
Although rare, germs from horses can cause a variety of illnesses in people, from minor skin infections to serious illnesses. Besides owning or touching a horse, common chores such as cleaning stalls and grooming might put you at risk. To protect yourself and your family from getting sick:
- Seek routine veterinary care for your horse and
- Always wash your hands and the hands of children with running water and soap after contact with horses or their manure.
Human illness from horses in the United States is rare, but it can happen.
The most common diseases associated with horses that can cause human illness are:
- Brucellosis (Brucella)
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), St. Louis Encephalitis Virus (SLEV), and Venezuelan Encephalitis (VEE)
- Lyme disease
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Salmonellosis (Salmonella)
- West Nile virus
From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)