Ireland Department of Agriculture Urges Vigilance in Minimizing EIA Risk

This is a Note to Industry/Private Veterinary Practices from the Ireland Department of Agriculture and Food, August 31, 2006:

The Department has now received confirmation of seventeen cases of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), the most recent on 26 August 2006. As a consequence of these seventeen cases, a total of twenty-two premises are currently subject to Department imposed movement restrictions and approximately 1000 horses have, in total, been subject to movement restriction.

The sixteenth case, confirmed on 25 August, was on a previously unrestricted premises and the Department is currently investigating the circumstances of this case with a view to confirming a method of transmission. The most recent case was on a previously restricted premises and, as such, came within the Department's high-risk category.

In the past fortnight, the Department has begun the process of de-restricting a small number of the initial in-contact horses. It's hoped that this process will continue and accelerate in the coming weeks.

All horses placed under restriction are subject to a surveillance program under which the Department schedules tests at various intervals, depending on the horse's level of risk, as determined on a risk assessment basis. Restricted horses will only be derestricted on satisfactory completion of the surveillance program.

In an effort to assist owners of restricted horses, the Department has introduced a financial support package through which a contribution of €50 is made to the professional fee of the veterinarian for taking the sample and the costs of the analysis of the sample are also met in full. This package only applies to Department-scheduled tests and does not extend to private testing for entry to sales or for international racing etc. This scheme is subject to review by the Department.

The Irish Equine Centre, which is a DAF approved laboratory for serological tests for EIA, has undertaken in excess of 4000 tests since May and, in addition, the Department's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory has been carrying out serological tests. To date only the seventeen positive cases reported have been confirmed.

All of the confirmed cases since the beginning of July, with one exception, fell within a group of horses identified by the Department as being particularly at high-risk and their confirmation did not, therefore, come as a surprise. There are still a small number of horses in this category which are alive and which are, consequently, under very close surveillance and subject to ten-day interval testing, or more frequently where considered appropriate.

As part of the extensive program of tracing of in-contact horses, the Department has identified a number of horses which had left the country and, in all cases, the relevant authorities in those countries have been notified.

It is important also that horse owners continue to be vigilant and that all those involved in the industry continue to maintain high standards of biosecurity. Any horse presenting any of the clinical symptoms suggestive of EIA should immediately be blood sampled and tested for the disease. It is everybody's interest that the disease is contained and eradicated as quickly as possible and that the Department's absolute determination. The assistance of horse owners and the equine industry will be of great help in this regard.

The Department wishes to express its appreciation for the high level of co-operation and assistance provided by the various sectors throughout the Irish equine industry and, particularly, the commitment of the veterinary profession and the IEC to ensure the expeditious processing of thousands of samples throughout the busy summer period.

More information from the Department can be found at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie.

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