UK HealthCare

Can You Catch a Disease from a Horse?


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Mar. 5, 2010) − Although it is rare for humans to pick up a disease from a horse, education on the subject is the best source of prevention, and the Saddle Up Safely campaign addresses diseases, clinical signs and professional advice in a new booklet on this topic.             


The five-year campaign is a unique collaboration of expertise and participation between University of Kentucky and community sponsors and partners, including the campaign's spokesperson, Kentucky's First Lady Jane Beshear.                       


"In addition to reducing the number and severity of riding injuries, it is also very important to understand how diseases of the horse can affect humans and how to prevent and respond to them," said First Lady Jane Beshear.               


This booklet lists potential zoonotic diseases that can be shared between horses and people and precautions that can be taken to reduce the chances of this occurring. Zoonotic diseases are defined as any disease that can be transferred from people to animal or animal to people.               


"Many people do not know that horses can contract rabies from a rabid animal bite, and therefore be a threat to human health," said Roberta Dwyer, professor in the Department of Veterinary Science in the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture. "Rabies is likely the most commonly known zoonotic disease, which is one that can be transmitted between animals and people. Other diseases common to horses and people, such as influenza, may have the same name, but are not transmissible between the two species."

The booklet is the second in a series of educational booklets released by the Saddle Up Safely campaign, and Dwyer stresses the importance of this booklet because every horse person needs to know about zoonotic diseases for their own safety as well as that of their families and employees.

"As the horse capital of the world, many Kentuckians interact with horses in many different ways," said Bill Gombeski, director of strategic marketing at UK HealthCare. "Educating people on horse safety is an important task and we hope the Saddle Up Safely campaign will become the primary source for horse education."

For more information on the Saddle Up Safely campaign or to receive a copy of educational booklets, visit their Web site at