North Dakota Horse Owners Alerted Of EIA

Several recent, confirmed cases of equine infectious anemia (EIA) are a warning to North Dakota horse owners to be aware of the possibility that their horses may have contacted the disease, says the state veterinarian.

Dr. Larry Schuler said that five horses in North Dakota have recently been diagnosed with the disease, and that one of the animals has died. Although three different owners are involved, Schuler said all the animals had been in contact with each other, and it is possible that all the cases are linked to a common source.

"The number of animals involved is fairly significant," Schuler said. "Usually we have only one case every two or three years."

A viral disease, EIA is generally spread by larger blood-sucking insects, such as horse flies and deer flies. The infection can also be spread mechanically through use of unclean hypodermic needles. One-fifth of a teaspoon of blood from a horse with acute EIA contains enough of the virus to infect a million horses.

EIA can readily be detected through a procedure known as a Coggins test. North Dakota and many other states require that all horses coming into the state have a negative Coggins test.

Symptoms include fever, small blood-colored spots appearing on the mucous membranes, depression, swellings in the legs and under the chest, and general anemia. The disease can be fatal to horses, but animals can also develop a chronic form of the disease with recurrent symptoms. No vaccine is presently available.

EIA poses no threat to human health, except to individuals with suppressed immune systems.

  • Schuler said horse owners can take a number of precautions to prevent the risk of infection, including:
  • Use disposable syringes and needles. Follow the rule: one horse one needle.
  • Clean and sterilize all instruments thoroughly after each use.
  • Keep stables and immediate facilities clean and sanitary. Remove manure and debris promptly, and ensure that the area is well drained.
  • Implement insect controls. The local veterinarian or animal health official can provide information about approved insecticides and other insect-control measures.
  • Do not intermingle infected and healthy animals. Do not breed EIV-positive horses.
  • Isolate all new horses, mules, and asses brought to the premises until they have been tested for EIA.
  • Obtain the required certification of negative EIA test status for horse shows, county fairs, racetracks, and other places where many animals are brought together.
  • Abide by state laws regarding EIA.

Schuler encouraged horse owners with questions about EIA to contact their veterinarian.

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