EIA in Georgia: Four Test Positive, 94 Quarantined

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin announced last week that four horses in Chattooga County tested positive for Equine infectious anemia (EIA) and have been euthanized. So far, 94 other horses in the county have had to be quarantined due to possible exposure.

EIA is a viral disease that affects the horse's immune system. There is no cure. EIA is usually transmitted by horseflies or mosquitoes.  "Although many infected horses show no symptoms, they remain infectious for life, endangering the health of other horses. For this reason, the Georgia Department of Agriculture requires euthanasia or lifelong quarantine for EIA-infected horses. We also require testing for all horse sales and transfers of ownership," said Commissioner Irvin. This test, called a Coggins Test, also is required for all horse shows and before horse owners are allowed to board any of their animals at a stable.

"Because there is no cure, the only protection is prevention," Commissioner Irvin continued. "This is why testing is a necessity and why boarding facilities have to be licensed. Although Georgia has had only a few EIA-positive horses in the past year, these few horses can affect many others. I encourage all horse owners in Chattooga County and surrounding areas to have their horses tested even if not selling or moving their horses. This is important in areas where there has been an outbreak.

"Our prevention methods have kept Georgia from becoming a hotspot for this disease. EIA can cripple the horse industry in a state. Besides possibly causing death, EIA severely limits the enjoyment people can get from their horses such as competing in shows or riding on trails. For the good of everyone, we must work to keep EIA from becoming a common problem in Georgia," said Irvin.

With the exception of the 4 horses that tested positive, 93 of the other quarantined horses have tested negative. The remaining horse was a newborn colt that will be tested soon. Before any of them are released from quarantine, they will have to be tested again 45 days following their last exposure to an infected horse.

The EIA virus reproduces in blood cells and circulates throughout the body. The horse's immune system attacks and destroys the infected red blood cells. The reduced blood count causes anemia, and associated inflammation can damage vital organs. Because the horse's immune system is impaired, the horse may also become susceptible to other infections. EIA-infected horses can die from the virus or from secondary infections.  A horse that tests positive for EIA will have to be kept permanently at least 200 yards from other horses or roadways.

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