TAHC Continues Equine Piroplasmosis Testing

TAHC Continues Equine Piroplasmosis Testing

EP can be transmitted from a positive horse to a negative horse by blood transfer from dirty instruments or by tick vectors. South Texas has a large and diverse population of ticks.

Photo: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) designated Kleberg County (South Texas) equids (including horses, donkeys, ponies, mules, and zebras) as high risk for exposure to equine piroplasmosis (EP) in March, 2013. As a result, the TAHC began mandatory testing of all equids in Kleberg County on April 8. The initial Kleberg County test zones extended south from Escondido Creek to the Kleberg-Kenedy county line.

As of May 20, 283 premises and 747 equids in Kleberg County have been tested. Of the premises and animals tested, 19 horses residing on six premises have tested positive for the disease.

The TAHC is hoping to wrap up testing in the southern part of the county by the end of May, where approximately 30 premises remain to be tested. The next efforts will involve testing the northern part of Kleberg County. All equid owners in the county who have not had their equine tested are strongly encouraged to contact the TAHC as soon as possible to schedule an appointment by calling 361/676-0979. The test is free of charge.

"We greatly appreciate the cooperation of the equine owners and veterinary practitioners of Kleberg County, and the high level of voluntary compliance with the mandatory testing requirement," said T.R. Lansford, DVM, Region 5 director. "We look forward to working with the remaining owners of untested equine and the local veterinarians as we strive to complete the area test in Kleberg County. It is important that all equine are tested as soon as possible."

EP is a blood-borne protozoal disease that affects all equine species, but is not transmissible to humans. Through research, a treatment protocol has been developed that can often clear the infection and lead to the release of horses that tested positive. EP is currently not considered endemic in Texas or the United States, however, isolated outbreaks of the disease such as in Kleberg County have occurred.

EP can be transmitted from a positive horse to a negative horse by blood transfer from dirty instruments or by tick vectors. South Texas has a large and diverse population of ticks. Horses visiting pastures with infected tick populations can become infected as a result. Once positive horses are treated or removed, the tick populations within those pastures free themselves of the disease in approximately one year, and it will be safe to put negative horses back in the pasture.

"Because EP is considered a foreign animal disease to the U.S., it is important we make every effort to find undetected cases in the area," said Dee Ellis, DVM, Texas state veterinarian. "We believe the EP situation related to tick transmission in Texas is limited to just a few south Texas counties. The TAHC is asking for the support of local horse owners to ensure this testing effort is a success."

Area horse owners are also encouraged to discuss the situation with their local veterinarian.

Kleberg County equid owners and/or veterinary practitioners who have questions should contact the TAHC Region 5 Office in Beeville at 361/676-0979.

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