Equine Infectious Anemia Confirmed in Ireland

Agriculture authorities have confirmed Ireland's first recorded cases of equine infectious anemia (EIA). Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Food announced Thursday (June 15) that the disease was detected in a "small number of horses" in the Meath/Kildare area. The disease was likely caused by the use of infected equine blood products, and investigations into the outbreak are ongoing.

A press release from the Department said, "The Department is also tracing those horses which, in the past three months, have passed through those farms on which the infected animals were located."

Authorities are recommending that farm owners and managers and other horse owners have their horses tested for the disease, which has an incubation period of one to three weeks.

"The Department is particularly anxious that all reasonable steps should be taken by owners of horses to ensure that the Department can continue to certify horses for export, where such certification is required," continued the release.

Equine infectious anemia is a viral disease that attacks the horse's immune system and is most commonly detected with the Coggins test. The virus is transmitted by the exchange of body fluids from an infected to a non-infected animal, often by blood-feeding insects such as horseflies, and more rarely through the use of blood-contaminated instruments or needles. Once an animal is infected with EIA, it is infected for life and can be a reservoir for the spread of disease. Obvious clinical signs of the disease include progressive loss of condition along with muscle weakness and poor stamina. An affected horse also could show fever, depression, and anemia.

According to the Department, the insect species that commonly spread EIA, Tabanus or Stomoxy, are not native to Ireland. However, transmission of the disease could occur "where there are large numbers of horseflies in proximity to acutely affected horses and occurs most often during periods of high insect activity, in low-lying swampy areas close to woodlands. Transmission of infection via colostrums or semen is uncommon."

Horse owners were advised to steer clear of areas where horseflies congregate until they are certain their horses are EIA-negative.

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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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