TAHC to Test Equids in Kleberg County for Piroplasmosis

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) has determined Kleberg County (located in south Texas) equids could be at high risk for exposure to equine piroplasmosis (EP) and will begin testing animals in that county for the disease on Monday, April 8.

An informational public meeting will be held on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m., local time, at the Dick Kleberg Park Recreation Building in Kingsville. Kleberg County equine owners and veterinarians are encouraged to attend this public meeting. Region 5 management and TAHC executive directors will provide information regarding the disease, testing, and more.

EP is a blood-borne protozoal disease that affects all equine, including horses, ponies, donkeys, mules, and zebras. Piroplasmosis can be transmitted from a positive horse to a negative horse by blood transfer from the reuse of needles, syringes, and other blood-contaminated equipment that has not been sanitized between uses, or via insect carriers, such as ticks. EP is not transmissible to humans. Through research, a treatment protocol was developed that can clear the infection from an affected horse's body (Editor's Note: Read more about EP treatment in "Equine Piroplasmosis in America: Re-Emergence and Control"). EP is currently not considered endemic in Texas or the United States; however, isolated outbreaks of the disease have occurred.

After extensive testing in Kenedy and Kleberg counties, numerous EP cases have been detected, therefore Kleberg County has been designated as a high risk area for Piro.

There are an estimated 225 premises and 500 equine animals in the initial Kleberg County test area, extending south from Escondido Creek to the Kleberg-Kenedy county line. Projected completion date is the summer of 2013.

"Equine piroplasmosis is considered a foreign animal disease in the U.S., however, new cases continue to be discovered, even three years after the initial case was found," said Dee Ellis, DVM, Texas state veterinarian. "(EP) can be spread by way of ticks. South Texas has a high population of this parasite. It is common practice for horses in this South Texas area to be used on local ranches and/or in weekend events such as rodeos, roping, trail rides, etc. Ticks can spread Piro through this very movement of horses.

"The TAHC is asking for the support of equine owners and veterinarians to make this testing effort a success and help assure the health of the equine population," Ellis said

Kleberg County equine owners or veterinary practitioners who have questions are asked to contact the Region 5 office at 361/358-3234.

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