Glanders and farcy: how to spot and report the diseases

How to spot glanders and farcy, what to do if you suspect them and measures to prevent their spread.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

Glanders and farcy affect horses, donkeys, mules, goats, camelids and a variety of other animals.

Humans can also be affected.

The last confirmed case in Great Britain was in 1928.

Glanders and farcy are notifiable animal diseases. If you suspect these diseases you must report them immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot glanders and farcy

In both glanders and farcy small lumps, or ‘nodules’, may form beneath the skin. These nodules will ‘ulcerate’ or burst.

If the nodules are mainly in the nostrils, lungs and other internal organs, the disease is known as glanders.

If the nodules are mainly on the surface of a horse’s limbs or body, the disease is known as farcy.

Chronic glanders and farcy

Glanders and farcy can be ‘chronic’, lasting for several months or even years, before affected animals eventually die from lung damage.

Another sign of chronic glanders or farcy is enlarged lymph nodes, for example in the neck.

Acute glanders and farcy

The disease can also be ‘acute’, developing suddenly and intensely and leading to death within a few days.

Other signs of acute glanders include:

  • coughing
  • discharge from the nose
  • fever

Risk to humans from glanders and farcy

Glanders is a potentially serious disease in humans if it is not treated but effective treatments are available.

The chance of glanders being transmitted from a horse to a human is very low. Human cases of glanders are rare. Transmission to humans only happens where a human has been in close contact with infected animals which are showing clear signs of disease.

Humans in contact with cases of glanders are not at risk of passing disease on to other humans.

You should isolate any suspect animals and avoid contact where possible. Use protective clothing during contact including:

  • gloves
  • face mask
  • goggles or eye shield

After use dispose of this protective equipment in a sealed bag and wash your hands with soap and water.

How glanders and farcy are spread

Glanders and farcy are spread when horses eat infected food, water or come into contact with contaminated equipment. Infected animals that do not die from the disease will continue to carry and spread it.

Preventing and controlling glanders and farcy

You can help prevent disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.

If you report suspicion of glanders or farcy Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) vets will investigate.

If glanders or farcy are confirmed, the outbreak will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

Find out more about prevention and control, read the guidance on:

Legislation relating to glanders or farcy

The main legislation on the control of glanders and farcy are the:

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 3 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect the new disease reporting requirements from 21 April 2021 (which were introduced to comply with third country export requirements from the EU’s Animal Health Regulation). From this date glanders is a notifiable disease in goats and camelid.

  2. Contact details for reporting a notifiable disease updated.

  3. Risk to humans from glanders and farcy - it used to read: You can catch glanders or farcy by contact with infected animals or their body fluids. It can also spread in the breath. The disease is likely to be fatal if not treated immediately. See a doctor immediately if you think you have been exposed. You should isolate any suspect animals and avoid contact where possible. Use protective clothing including gloves and a face mask during any essential contact.

  4. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  5. First published.