Equine Piroplasmosis Case in Florida

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced Aug. 15 that a horse in Manatee County, Fla., has been diagnosed with equine piroplasmosis, an animal disease that the U.S. has been considered free of since 1988.

Blood and tissue testing of a 7-year-old gelding that had been euthanized after a three-week illness confirmed the presence of the disease in the animal. State officials immediately quarantined the premises on which the horse resided, as well as two adjacent properties containing horses until a determination of their status could be made. An ongoing investigation is being conducted by the state veterinarian's office to determine the source of the disease and whether it has spread beyond the immediate area where the infected animal was housed.

About Equine Piroplasmosis

Equine piroplasmosis (EP) is a blood-borne parasitic disease primarily transmitted to horses by ticks or contaminated needles. The disease was eradicated from Florida in the 1980's, and the tick species believed to transmit EP in other countries have not been identified in Florida in many years.

This disease is not directly contagious from one horse to another but requires direct blood transfer. Human infection with equine piroplasmosis is extremely rare.

Piroplasmosis can be difficult to diagnose, since the parasites cause a wide variety of clinical signs, including acute fever, lack of appetite, anemia, jaundice, chronic weight loss, poor exercise tolerance, and sudden death. The disease can be fatal in up to 20% of previously unexposed animals.

Recovered horses can become chronic carriers without clinical signs.

Current Advice to Equine Industry

Veterinarians, horse owners, and others in the equine industry in Florida are asked to monitor their horses carefully and contact their veterinarian if they suspect this disease. Because it is a disease that the U.S. has been free of for two decades, suspected cases must be reported to the office of the state veterinarian by law.

With the exception of the quarantined premises, there are no EP movement restrictions on horses within Florida or between Florida and other states. Horses entering Florida from other countries with equine piroplasmosis will continue to be tested prior to and following entry according to the current rule.

Horse owners are asked to monitor their animals for the presence of ticks, and to use commercially available topical products labeled for ticks if your horse is in an area where tick infestation is a problem. Most of these products are synthetic pyrethrins. Include an avermectin product in your deworming program to provide systemic treatment for ticks.

Horse owners are also reminded not to share needles between animals during the administration of any medication or vaccinations.

Keep an eye on TheHorse.com for further information as it becomes available.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners