Purdue News

January 12, 2005

Purdue's Large Animal Isolation Unit open for business

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Horses and cattle suspected of having contagious diseases have a new safety zone at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine since the $2.2 million Large Animal Isolation Unit opened in December.

Michel Levy examines Skyscraper
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"Whenever you have an infection within a hospital, you run the risk of infecting other patients," said Michel Levy, associate professor of large animal medicine at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. "We are better equipped to avoid that with this new isolation facility."

The eight-stall, 5,740-square-foot building is entirely separate from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The primary patients of the isolation unit are horses, but one stall is equipped to treat cattle. Construction began in August 2003.

"Because the two buildings are not physically connected, and there are no common entrances and exits, it will be possible to ensure that no infectious animals cross paths with non-infected hospital patients," said Mimi Arighi, director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "The new isolation unit helps us be more competitive with schools around the country that are following the trend of providing separate housing for animals with infectious diseases."

In addition to the isolation stalls, the facility has a treatment room, a sterilization room, two small storage rooms and office space. The biggest room in the building is the mechanical room, which is necessary because it houses specialized air-handling equipment, Levy said.

"This is not your average equine barn," he said. "Each stall has its own air conditioning and ventilation system to prevent cross-contamination between rooms or with the outside air."

Each stall, which is12-by-12 feet, has a state-of-the-art video monitoring system so the patients can be watched minute-by-minute from another room or from monitors in two other areas of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The screen is split into nine windows to give a quick overview of all eight stalls and the treatment room. The monitoring system also can focus on each room to determine if an animal is showing signs of pain, is acting abnormally or has pulled out the fluid-delivery tubes that are used for treatments.

"The video monitoring setup puts us at the cutting edge of those hospitals with large animal isolation facilities," Arighi said.

Patients in the stalls also can be viewed through windows in the hallway.

The state-of-the-art equipment and accompanying protocols for dealing with infections match that found in human hospitals.

"Facilities and protocol are changing now that we're learning more about how pathogens are passed around in both human and animal hospitals," Levy said.

Every door lists the proper protocol for entering any of the stalls and the treatment room. Each of the rooms includes a changing area. Entrants must first put on disposable gowns, gloves and plastic boots before entering the room where the animal is located. After exiting the animal room, each person must take off the disposable clothing and place it in special bags before leaving the changing area.

"Unlike surgery, where the doctors scrub before going in, in this facility there is more concern for what is brought out of the potentially contaminated area," Levy said.

Pathogens need to be strictly contained because they persist in the environment and spread to other animal patients. Some also can spread to humans, Levy said. For example, cryptosporidium, which is a parasite sometimes shed by calves with diarrhea, can spread to people. In an isolation unit, doctors can test and monitor the animals and take special precautions.

Doctors are constantly monitoring for salmonella, which affected several patients in the teaching hospital in 2000 when it had to close down for six weeks, Levy said.

"Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of healthy horses shed salmonella in their manure but are not clinically affected," Levy said. "But if a horse is stressed, as it would be if it has to come to the hospital, that bacteria can multiply and eventually affect the horse. We need to keep these pathogens from spreading to other patients."

Other pathogens that need to be controlled are viruses, such as the sort that killed several horses at the University of Findlay in Ohio last year, Levy said. The facility also will help contain strangles, a contagious respiratory disease that can spread through a horse population, as it did at the farm owned by Robert and Janet Musgrave of Bloomington, Ind.

The Musgraves breed Rocky Mountain Stallions and own 23 horses. Strangles has spread through several of them, and they recently brought two foals, a male and a female, to the new isolation unit.

"We noticed it affecting our horses in May, and we decided after having to put one down last week that it was time to become more aggressive," said Janet Musgrave. "We have a lot of confidence in the vet school here. And we want to make sure other horse owners know about it so they can protect their horses."

Levy examined the foals with Nicole Ferguson, second-year resident in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital; Crystal Hagan, registered veterinary technician and large animal technologist; and Inna Magner, a fourth-year student. After administering a mild sedative, the team inserted a tube with a camera on the end, called a video endoscope, down the colts' noses to look for signs of strangles.

"The tube has to be guided down the larynx, the trachea, and in the guttural pouches to determine evidence of discharge," Levy said. "The procedure is monitored on the video screen next to the horse."

The male foal was sent home the same day, and Levy said he would improve with care and supervision by the owner. The female was kept longer because she had bouts of fever and pus in her guttural pouches, which subsequently were flushed twice a day with saline through special catheters made for that purpose.

The average stay for a horse ranges from a few days to two weeks, Levy said. He suspects all eight stalls will be occupied in the spring, the time of year when contagious diseases are the most prevalent.

"We've had to turn away horses in the past because we didn't have room," Levy said. "Now we have more room and can take all the special precautions we need to keep every animal safe."

Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, maggiemorris@purdue.edu

Sources: Michel Levy, (765) 496-3909, levy@purdue.edu

Mimi Arighi. (765) 494-7235, arighi@purdue.edu

Veterinary School contact: Kevin Doer, director of public affairs,(765) 494-8216, doerrkr@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Video is available by contacting Maggie Morris at (765) 494-2432, maggiemorris@purdue.edu. Journalists wishing to tour the facility should contact Kevin Doerr, director of alumni relations and public affairs at the School of Veterinary Medicine, (765) 494-8216, doerrkr@purdue.edu.


Michel Levy, an associate professor of large animal medicine at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, examines 10-month-old Skyscraper for symptoms that might indicate a contagious disease in the school's Large Animal Isolation Unit. Skyscraper, owned by Robert and Janet Musgrave of Bloomington, Ind., was brought to the unit suspected of having a contagious respiratory disease called strangles. The monitor on the left will show the colt's trachea after a tube-mounted camera, called a video endoscope, is inserted down Skyscraper's nose. The $2.2 million isolation unit began accepting horses in December. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at https://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+2004/vet-isolation.jpg


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