Piroplasmosis: Kentucky Requires Testing of Texas Horses

Due to the ongoing investigation into equine piroplasmosis in the state of Texas, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's State Veterinarian's Office has opted to require testing of all horses from Texas entering the state of Kentucky.

A statement released by the Kentucky State Veterinarian's Office Oct. 29 indicated that more than 100 horses in Texas have now tested positive, and noted some of the positive horses were not known to have had direct contact with the previously identified group of infected horses. This might indicate that natural transmission of the causative agent (which can be spread via ticks) has occurred.

All Texas resident horses (within the state for the past 30 days or more) seeking to enter Kentucky are required to have a negative cELISA for Theileria equi and Babesia caballi, the protozoal parasites that cause equine piroplasmosis. Under the current protocol, the test results will qualify a horse for entry for 12 months.

The USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, is currently the only facility approved to conduct testing for equine piroplasmosis.

All equids coming from Texas, regardless of length of stay, will also be required to have an entry permit issued by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and recorded on the Texas Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. The permit can be obtained by the accredited veterinarian issuing the certificate. The veterinarian should call 502/564-3956 during normal office hours of Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Kentucky State Veterinarian's Web site www.kyagr.com/statevet/equine has been updated to reflect these changes, and will continue to be updated as new information becomes available or as restrictions and/or requirements for entry into the state change.

Canada has also restricted the importation of horses from Texas. The American Horse Council said in a statement that effective October 21, 2009, the USDA will not endorse any export health certificates for equines to Canada from Texas. Equines being exported to Canada from other states must have additional certification that during the previous 21 days the animal has not been in the state of Texas. This restriction is in place until further notice.

Equine piroplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by either of two protozoal parasites that attack the red blood cells. Affected animals can exhibit fever, anemia, weight loss, jaundice, and, in some cases, clinical signs lead to death. The case fatality rate can be up to 20% in naive horses (those that have never been exposed), and some infected equine animals might exhibit few or no signs of disease.

The only treatment is a potent type of chemotherapy that can have serious side effects in some horses. The disease is spread by ticks, the use of contaminated needles, and possibly through blood-contaminated semen of infected stallions. Officials in the United States have screened all imported horses for piroplasmosis for nearly 30 years, and the disease was officially eradicated from the United States in 1988.

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About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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