Equine Piroplasmosis: Kentucky Entry Requirements Updated

The Kentucky State Veterinarian's Office has issued a statement today (Sept. 7) updating the equine piroplasmosis (EP) testing requirements for horses entering the commonwealth.

Equine piroplasmosis, a tick-borne non-contagious blood disease, results from infection by the protozoa Babesia caballi or Theileria equi (formerly Babesia equi). In most cases, piroplasmosis presents an acute infection, with fever, loss of appetite, malaise, labored or rapid respiration and congestion of the mucus membranes. In rare cases the disease can be fatal.

In December 2010, State Veterinarian Robert Stout, DVM, mandated that effective Jan. 1, 2011, all horses shipping to Kentucky Thoroughbred racetracks must show proof of a negative EP test before being allowed on to track grounds.

According to the statement from the State Veterinarian's Office, the updated shipping requirements are as follows:

TEXAS HORSES: "A significant outbreak of this disease was detected affecting hundreds of Texas horses in late 2009, with the investigation continuing through 2010. Though the investigation has since concluded, and the risk of transmission to susceptible horses is being mitigated, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will continue for the remainder of this calendar year to require that horses originating from Texas be accompanied with certification of having tested negative for equine piroplasmosis (T. equi only) during the 12 month period preceding the animal's entry into Kentucky. We are in the process of evaluating testing and other data provided to us by Texas Animal Health Officials and determining what, if any, testing for piroplasmosis of Texas horses entering KY will be required in 2012. In addition to the EP Testing requirement, horses entering Kentucky from Texas are required to enter with a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and Kentucky Entry Permit."

THOROUGHBRED RACING: "Horses entering tracks conducting thoroughbred racing are no longer (with exception of Texas horses) required to be tested for piroplasmosis. We have amended our previous directive by removing the requirement that horses entering tracks conducting thoroughbred racing be tested for EP with the sole exception of those horses originating from Texas. The data supports a conclusion that T. equi associated with the United States' thoroughbred racing population is minimal. Of the 169 horses found to be infected with T. equi, 10 are reported to be Thoroughbreds and 132 are reported to be racing Quarter Horses. Eight of the 10 Thoroughbreds were associated with a single racing stable in South Florida. An individual associated with this Florida stable was reportedly linked to a previous outbreak involving unsanctioned Quarter Horse racing and suspicion of unsanitary practices resulting in iatrogenic transmission. The remaining positive Thoroughbreds were in Western states and are also believed to have had an indirect association with unsanctioned Quarter Horse racing."

STANDARDBRED RACING: "Horses (regardless of breed) entering Kentucky tracks conducting live harness racing will continue through this calendar year to be accompanied by certification of testing negative for piroplasmosis (both T. equi and B. caballi) during the 12 month period preceding the entry. With limited sampling of this breed and population having occurred, we are currently unable to conclude what, if any, risk piroplasmosis presents to the general Standardbred racing population."

QUARTER HORSE RACING: "Should Quarter Horse racing resume in Kentucky during 2012, we will be continuing the requirement that horses (regardless of breed) coming onto a track conducting live Quarter Horse racing will be required to be tested for piroplasmosis (both T. equi and B. caballi). The data continues to clearly demonstrate an unacceptable prevalence of equine piroplasmosis is associated with racing Quarter Horses. The available data indicates no fewer than 132 racing Quarter Horses have been discovered positive. With this data, we consider racing quarter horses continue to pose an identified risk to our domestic equine populations. In addition to these racing quarter horses, another 413 horses associated with an outbreak first identified in south Texas during 2009 have been found positive. These horses were traced from the Texas premises and detected throughout the United States."

The statement also noted that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will continue to monitor national testing data and disease prevalence and will "reevaluate mitigation strategies as needed." All of these changes are effective immediately, the statement added.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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