Irish Officials Working to Control EIA Outbreak

Since equine infectious anemia (EIA) was first identified in Ireland in mid-June, animal health officials have been working to contain the outbreak that has now resulted in 21 confirmed cases and surveillance of around 1,000 horses.

According to Paddy Rogan, MVB, MRCVS, chief veterinary officer for Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Food, surveillance and containment have been the major focuses of the effort to stop the spread of the disease, which has no prevention, treatment, or cure. A horse infected with EIA remains infectious for life and must either be quarantined or euthanatized.

The virus is spread through bodily fluids, and it can be carried by blood-sucking insects such as horseflies. Additionally, infected horses can incubate and spread the virus for weeks before showing clinical signs, which can include anemia, muscle weakness, fever, depression, and a lack of appetite.

A cornerstone of the Irish effort to control the disease is identification of all exposed animals. This includes all horses on restricted farms and animals from these premises that have been moved for veterinary treatment or breeding. Veterinary visits on restricted farms, and the transport vehicles used to move horses from restricted premises, are also being closely monitored.

Horses on restricted farms are being tested for the disease frequently, with the animals considered to be at the highest risk tested every 10 days.

The Irish Equine Centre (IEC) has processed more than 4,000 tests for EIA since the outbreak began. In order to help horse owners with the financial aspect of the frequent testing, the Department of Agriculture and Food is providing €50 ($63) for each veterinary visit required for testing, and it is paying the IEC for the cost of testing.

"Throughout the EIA outbreak, we have been very fortunate that the industry has demonstrated continuing support for the disease control program," Rogan said. "In addition, the very valuable contribution made by the Irish Equine Centre, both in terms of the provision of advice to individual horse owners and its testing facilities, must be acknowledged."

More information on the EIA outbreak from the Department of Agriculture and Food can be found at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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