In August 2017, the Kansas Animal Health Commissioner was notified that a horse near Garden City Kansas tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) after a routine Coggins test. This initiated follow-up testing of all horses on the index premises, which resulted in the discovery of five additional EIA-positive horses, and one horse tested positive for Equine Piroplasmosis (EP). All positive horses on the premises were humanely euthanized.
This prompted panic in the horse world across Kansas and the surrounding states. But what exactly is “Equine Infectious Anemia”? The Kansas Department of Agriculture has a very well written description on their website that we would like to share with you here. As well as information about preventing the disease. If you have horses, or other equine such as mules or donkeys we urge you to take just a moment to read this. It is vital that we as responsible horse owners take every precaution to prevent the spread of this disease.
What is EIA?
EIA is an incurable, infectious disease caused by a virus that can affect horses, donkeys, asses and other equine species. This virus destroys red blood cells and is spread through blood-to-blood contact, not through close proximity or casual contact. Clinical signs of EIA include fever, anemia and edema; however, affected horses may not show symptoms. All infected horses, including those which are asymptomatic, are carriers of the disease.
How is EIA transmitted?
The virus can be transmitted from an infected equine to a “clean” equine by biting flies, the use of unsterilized or contaminated medical instruments, or through a blood transfusion. This disease does not affect humans. KDA has identified a prescribed surveillance area within one-half mile of the affected premises, and is working with local officials and horse owners to identify any other horses that may have been within that surveillance area in order to test those animals.
The surveillance area is identified based on risk associated with the potential transfer of the disease. EIA is mechanically transmitted via the mouth parts of biting flies, and research has shown that the EIA virus survives for a limited time on the mouth parts of the fly vectors, so the area of possible exposure is limited to a relatively small radius around the affected premises. Symptomatic horses, those showing clinical signs, are more likely to transmit the disease compared to those that have an in apparent infection. It is estimated after visiting an asymptomatic carrier, only one out of every 6 million flies is likely to become a vector.
How common is EIA?
There are typically a small number of cases of EIA in the United States every year, although the disease is common in other parts of the world. EIA is controlled in the U.S. by regular testing before traveling across state lines and/or exhibition. The test for EIA is commonly called a Coggins Test.
Prevention and Control of EIA
There is no approved vaccine for EIA in the United States. In order to prevent infection, follow these guidelines:
*Practice good fly control by regular mucking of stalls, proper disposal of manure away from horse stabling areas and use of fly sprays or natural predators to minimize fly presence.
*Use a sterile needle and syringe for all injections or treatments.
*Disinfect any surgical or dental equipment thoroughly between horses. Remove all debris and blood with soap and water before disinfection.
*Only administer commercially licensed blood products.
*Use a sterile needle each time when puncturing a multi-dose medication bottle. Consult a veterinarian to demonstrate how to use sterile technique when drawing up medications.
*Require proof of a recent negative Coggins test at time of purchase or for new horses entering the premises. Require an EIA test for horses which have spent time at a premises where EIA-positive horses have been identified.
*Only participate in events that require evidence of a negative Coggins test for every horse entering the event to prevent disease introduction and spread.
*Separate horses with fevers, reduced feed intake and/or lethargy from your other horses and contact your veterinarian.
You can find this & more information about EIA as well as printable Fact Sheets on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website. We suggest printing off the fact sheets & hanging in your tack room, barn, or common area of your boarding facility. The more information is available to everyone, the more mindful we all can be about doing our part in preventing this terrible disease.