Piroplasmosis Found In Australia

The following is a message that was released to the horse industry of Victoria, Australia, on March 31, from the Acting Chief Veterinary Officer:

A horse was imported from Hong Kong toVictoria, and was found to be infected with piroplasmosis, a disease exotic to Australia.


Equine piroplasmosis (otherwise known as equine babesiosis) is a tick-borne protozoal disease of equids characterised by fever, anemia and jaundice. It can also be spread by contaminated needles and other equipment. Recovered horses become chronic carriers without clinical signs.

A four-year-old retired Thoroughbred gelding was imported into Australia from Hong Kong on 7 March 2000. Government health certification accompanying the horse indicated that it met all Australian import conditions. The horse had been tested positive for equine piroplasmosis prior to export to Australia. Six other retired racehorses in the same export batch were reported as negative. Due to an oversight in Hong Kong, the positive horse was inadvertently authorized to travel to Australia.

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) detected the discrepancy while the shipment was in post-arrival quarantine at the Commonwealth Government Quarantine Station at Spotswood, Victoria. All seven horses were retested during post-arrival quarantine. The seropositive horse was again confirmed as positive and the six other horses tested negative. The seropositive horse was euthanized on 23 March and then incinerated. As a precaution, the other six imported horses are being kept in isolation for 36 days and must be re-tested negative before release from quarantine control.


There is no threat to the Victorian horse population as the horse was detected during post-arrival quarantine and appropriate measures have been taken to prevent spread.

Hong Kong is investigating the incident. The affected horse was imported in January 1999 directly to Hong Kong from South Africa and recent testing of stored sera collected at the time of the arrival of the horse in Hong Kong has confirmed that the horse was seropositive on arrival. Hong Kong authorities have undertaken testing of all horses in the Territory for piroplasmosis. Results available to date have all been negative. All horses have been examined for ticks and none have been found.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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