Europe Sees Multiple Outbreaks of EIA

Outbreaks of equine infectious anemia (EIA) have recently occurred in three European countries and are currently unresolved, according to local and international health authorities.

Four French horses, two German horses, and a Greek horse have been declared positive for the EIA virus via blood tests in the apparently unrelated outbreaks since late 2011. The French and German horses were euthanized in January, and the Greek horse died in October, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

While the German horses were on two separate farms in different areas of the country, the four French horses were all on the same farm, said Frédéric Poudevigne, DVM, head of health services and animal protection at the French Departmental Direction of Population Protection. The two mares and two geldings were housed on a private farm and boarding stable along with four other horses, which were tested negative. Only one of the horses showed clinical signs, including fever and swelling, Poudevigne said.

Two of the French horses participated in a weekend-long rally event last September in the Mediterranean region of Vaucluse, Poudevigne said. The horses competed and were housed overnight with approximately 160 other horses, which could have been contaminated. All the horses from the event are currently being tested; results will be available next week, he said. Meanwhile all farms housing horses from that event are on full quarantine until further notice.

One of the German horses was exposed to 82 other horses, but all 82 of them were found to be negative. In Greece, three additional horses tested negative.

Despite occurring in bordering countries, the outbreaks in France and Germany are not likely to be related, Poudevigne said. Vaucluse is in the southern part of the country, far from the German border, and the horses on the affected farm stayed close to home. "The one that showed symptoms was actually born at the farm and lived there his entire life," he said.

Laboratory analyses of the organs of the euthanized animals are underway in hopes of identifying a particular strain of the virus, which would give clues to where the disease came from, Poudevigne explained.

"We had an outbreak in the Var (a neighboring region) in 2009, so it's possible that the virus came from that," Poudevigne said of the French outbreak. "But it's really not possible to say at this point. Hopefully the strain analysis will give us more information about the source of this new outbreak."

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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