Equine Piroplasmosis Reported in New Jersey

Two horses in New Jersey have tested positive for equine piroplasmosis. The animals were among four purchased in 2008 from a ranch in South Texas on which 288 horses have now tested positive for the tick-borne disease.

"Additional testing on the imported horses and contact horses is under way," noted a statement from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. "Quarantines have been placed on the affected premises and precautions implemented to prevent the spread of this disease to other horses."

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher asked horse owners and veterinarians to be vigilant for signs of equine piroplasmosis, which can include a host of nonspecific clinical signs, such as fever or anemia. But some infected horses might appear well. Blood tests are needed to diagnosis the disease.

A Nov. 6 report by John Clifford, DVM, deputy administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, gave more details on the ongoing Texas investigation. As of Nov. 4 the National Veterinary Services Laboratory had confirmed the disease in 288 horses on the property. Investigators were continuing to test horses there as well as epidemiologically linked animals.

The only treatment for equine piroplasmosis is a potent type of chemotherapy that can have serious side effects in some horses. The disease is spread by as many as 15 species of ticks, the use of contaminated needles, and possibly through blood-contaminated semen of infected stallions. Officials in the United States have screened all imported horses for piroplasmosis for nearly 30 years. The disease was officially eradicated from the United States in 1988.

As a result of the current investigation, Canada and several states have restricted the importation of horses from Texas. Bob Hillman, DVM, Texas' state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission, urged horse owners and veterinarians to check with animal health officials for any state of destination to ensure the animals have met all entry requirements.

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About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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