Can Humans Get Pigeon Fever From Horses?

Humans cannot contract pigeon fever, also known as equine Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection, directly from horses. This bacterial infection primarily affects horses, causing abscesses in their chest, ventral abdomen, and limbs.

However, humans can indirectly become infected if they come into contact with the pus from the abscess or contaminated materials. It is important to practice proper hygiene and take precautions when handling horses with pigeon fever to prevent any potential transmission to humans.

If you suspect a horse has pigeon fever, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

can humans get pigeon fever from horses

Human Health Risks Associated with Equine Pigeon Fever

Equine Pigeon Fever, also known as Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection, is a contagious bacterial disease that primarily affects horses. While this condition primarily affects horses, it can pose certain risks to human health as well. In this section, we will explore the potential health risks that humans may face when exposed to Equine Pigeon Fever.

1. Zoonotic Infection:

Equine Pigeon Fever is considered a zoonotic infection, which means it has the potential to transmit from animals to humans. Although the risk of transmission is relatively low, it is still essential to take precautionary measures when handling or caring for infected horses.


  • Always wear gloves and protective clothing when in direct contact with an infected horse.
  • Regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling or touching an infected animal.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, or mouth before washing your hands to prevent the transfer of bacteria.

2. Skin Infections:

Direct contact with the pus or draining abscesses on an infected horse can lead to skin infections in humans. The bacteria can enter the body through cuts, scratches, or breaks in the skin, causing localized infections.


  • Wear gloves and use appropriate protective gear when handling an infected horse to minimize the risk of contact with pus or open wounds.
  • If you have any cuts or breaks in the skin, cover them with waterproof adhesive bandages before handling an infected animal.
  • Cleanse any exposed skin thoroughly with antiseptic solutions after contact with an infected horse.

3. Respiratory Infections:

In rare cases, Equine Pigeon Fever bacteria can be transmitted through respiratory droplets, leading to respiratory infections in humans. This can occur when an infected horse coughs, sneezes, or exhales near a person.


  • Avoid close contact with an infected horse’s respiratory secretions, especially if the horse is displaying symptoms such as coughing or sneezing.
  • Wear a face mask or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when near an infected horse.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after being near an infected horse, even if you didn’t have direct contact with it.

4. Allergic Reactions:

Some individuals may develop allergic reactions when exposed to Equine Pigeon Fever bacteria. This can manifest as skin rashes, hives, or respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing.


  • If you are known to have allergies to horses or bacteria, take extra precautions when handling or being near infected animals.
  • Wear protective clothing and a face mask to minimize direct contact and inhalation of allergens.
  • If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

In summary, while the risk of humans contracting Equine Pigeon Fever is relatively low, it is still important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with the disease. Taking precautionary measures when handling or caring for infected horses can significantly reduce the chances of transmission and minimize any potential adverse effects on human health.

Preventive Measures to Minimize the Risk of Contracting Pigeon Fever from Horses

Pigeon Fever, also known as Dryland Distemper, is a bacterial infection that affects horses. It is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. This infection can be highly contagious and can spread quickly among horses within a herd. To minimize the risk of contracting Pigeon Fever, it is essential to implement preventive measures. In this section, we will discuss some effective preventive measures that can help horse owners and caretakers in minimizing the risk of Pigeon Fever.

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1. Biosecurity Measures

The first step in preventing Pigeon Fever is to implement strict biosecurity measures. This includes maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for the horses. Regularly clean and disinfect the stables, feeding troughs, and water buckets. It is also important to practice good manure management to reduce the chances of bacterial contamination.

2. Isolation and Quarantine

If a horse shows signs of Pigeon Fever or has been in contact with an infected horse, it should be immediately isolated and quarantined. This will help prevent the spread of the infection to other horses. The isolation area should be well-maintained, with separate grooming tools, feed buckets, and water containers for the affected horse.

3. Fly Control

Flies are known to be a carrier of the bacterium that causes Pigeon Fever. Implementing fly control measures can help minimize the risk of infection. Use fly repellents and fly masks on the horses to reduce fly contact. Keep the stable area clean and free from manure, as it attracts flies. Consider using fly traps or fly predators to further control the fly population.

4. Proper Wound Care

Pigeon Fever can enter the horse’s body through open wounds or insect bites. It is important to promptly treat any wounds and keep them clean and protected. Clean wounds with an antiseptic solution and apply appropriate wound dressings. Consult a veterinarian for proper wound care and management.

5. Vaccination

Although there is no vaccine available specifically for Pigeon Fever, there are vaccines that can help boost the horse’s immune system and reduce the severity of the infection. Consult with a veterinarian to discuss the appropriate vaccination protocols for your horses.

6. Monitoring and Early Detection

Regularly monitor the horses for any signs of Pigeon Fever, such as swollen lymph nodes, abscesses, or lameness. Early detection is crucial in preventing the spread of the infection. If any horse shows symptoms, isolate it immediately and consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

7. Education and Awareness

Proper education and awareness among horse owners, caretakers, and stable staff are essential in preventing the spread of Pigeon Fever. Train and educate them about the signs and symptoms of Pigeon Fever, proper biosecurity measures, and the importance of early detection and isolation. Encourage open communication and reporting of any suspected cases to prevent further spread.

8. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your horses to ensure their overall health and well-being. A veterinarian can provide guidance on preventive measures, proper nutrition, and general care that can help minimize the risk of various infections, including Pigeon Fever.

In summary, implementing preventive measures is crucial in minimizing the risk of contracting Pigeon Fever from horses. By following strict biosecurity measures, practicing proper wound care, implementing fly control measures, and staying vigilant for early detection, horse owners and caretakers can help protect their horses from this infectious disease.

4. The Importance of Proper Hygiene and Safety Practices around Infected Horses

When dealing with infected horses, it is crucial to understand and implement proper hygiene and safety practices. These practices not only protect the horse’s health but also prevent the spread of contagious diseases to other animals and humans. In this section, we will explore the significance of following these practices and the potential consequences of neglecting them.

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4.1 Preventing Disease Transmission

Infected horses can transmit various diseases, including respiratory infections, skin conditions, and gastrointestinal illnesses. Proper hygiene practices help minimize the risk of disease transmission among horses within a stable or a boarding facility. One of the primary ways to prevent the spread of diseases is by practicing good biosecurity measures.

Effective biosecurity measures include isolating infected horses, disinfecting equipment and surfaces regularly, and practicing strict hand hygiene. Isolation of infected horses helps prevent direct contact with healthy animals, while regular disinfection reduces the survival rate of pathogens on surfaces. Additionally, proper hand hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using hand sanitizers, is essential for preventing the spread of diseases through direct contact.

4.2 Protecting Human Health

While the focus is often on the health of the infected horse, it is equally important to protect human health when dealing with infected animals. Some equine diseases can be zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Examples of zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted by horses include ringworm, salmonella, and equine influenza.

Following proper hygiene practices reduces the risk of contracting zoonotic diseases. When handling infected horses, individuals should wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, and protective clothing, to minimize direct contact with bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces. After handling the infected horse, it is crucial to remove and properly dispose of the protective equipment, followed by thorough hand hygiene.

4.3 Maintaining a Clean Environment

A clean environment plays a vital role in the overall health and well-being of horses. Regular cleaning and disinfection of stables, stalls, and equipment help prevent the accumulation of dirt, manure, and bacteria, reducing the risk of infections. Proper waste management, including the timely removal and disposal of manure, prevents the breeding and spread of flies and other pests that can contribute to the transmission of diseases.

Furthermore, maintaining proper ventilation and air circulation in the stable is crucial for reducing the risk of respiratory diseases. Horses are prone to respiratory issues, and a well-ventilated environment helps minimize the concentration of airborne pathogens that can affect the health of both horses and humans.

4.4 Regular Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care is essential for managing and minimizing the impact of diseases in horses. By working closely with a veterinarian, horse owners can establish effective preventive measures and treatment protocols tailored to the specific needs of their horses. Vaccinations, deworming, and routine health checks are vital components of maintaining a healthy horse population.

Veterinary care also includes proper diagnosis and timely treatment of any underlying health issues. Early detection and intervention can prevent the spread of contagious diseases and minimize the severity of symptoms. Horse owners should follow their veterinarian’s guidance and implement the recommended treatment plans to ensure the well-being of their horses.

4.5 Conclusion

In summary, practicing proper hygiene and safety measures around infected horses is crucial for preventing disease transmission, protecting human health, maintaining a clean environment, and ensuring the overall well-being of the horse population. By implementing effective biosecurity measures, using personal protective equipment, maintaining a clean stable environment, and seeking regular veterinary care, horse owners can contribute to the health and safety of their horses and the entire equine community.

Seeking Medical Attention: What to Do if Exposed to Pigeon Fever from Horses

If you have been exposed to pigeon fever from horses, it is important to seek medical attention promptly to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Pigeon fever, also known as dryland distemper, is a bacterial infection that primarily affects horses but can also be transmitted to humans. The infection is caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis and is characterized by the formation of abscesses, typically in the chest or ventral abdomen of the horse.

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If you have been in close contact with an infected horse or have come into contact with its secretions or exudates, you may be at risk of developing pigeon fever. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms and take appropriate action to protect your health.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The symptoms of pigeon fever in humans may vary depending on the severity of the infection. The most common symptoms include:

  • Redness and swelling at the site of exposure
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Fever
  • Localized abscesses
  • Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)

If you experience any of these symptoms after exposure to an infected horse, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications and ensure a faster recovery.

Seeking Medical Help

When seeking medical attention for pigeon fever, it is important to inform your healthcare provider about your exposure to an infected horse. This information will help them make an accurate diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment.

Your healthcare provider may perform a physical examination and order laboratory tests to confirm the presence of the infection. Treatment for pigeon fever typically involves the use of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria. Depending on the severity of the infection, you may also be prescribed pain medication and instructed on wound care.

Preventing Pigeon Fever

Prevention is key when it comes to pigeon fever. To reduce the risk of exposure, follow these preventive measures:

  • Avoid direct contact with horses displaying symptoms of pigeon fever, such as abscesses or open sores.
  • Practice good hygiene, including thorough handwashing after handling horses or coming into contact with their secretions.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as gloves and coveralls, when handling potentially infected horses.
  • Keep horse stables clean and maintain good sanitation practices.
  • Consult with a veterinarian to ensure your horses receive appropriate vaccinations and regular health check-ups.

In Summary

If you have been exposed to pigeon fever from horses, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Recognize the symptoms, inform your healthcare provider about your exposure, and follow their instructions for diagnosis and treatment. Taking preventive measures can also help reduce the risk of exposure to pigeon fever. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can protect your health and prevent complications associated with this bacterial infection.


Can humans get pigeon fever from horses?

No, humans cannot get pigeon fever from horses. Pigeon fever, also known as dryland distemper, is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, which primarily affects horses and occasionally other livestock. It is not considered a zoonotic disease, meaning it does not typically spread from animals to humans.


In conclusion, there is no evidence to suggest that humans can get pigeon fever from horses. Pigeon fever, also known as Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infection, is primarily an equine disease that affects horses, causing swelling and abscesses in their chest area. While humans can be exposed to the bacteria, it is rare for them to develop the same symptoms. However, it is always important to practice good hygiene and take necessary precautions when handling horses or any animals to minimize the risk of potential infections. If you have any concerns or symptoms, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and advice.