On March 23, Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System officials reported the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) quarantined a Ponoka County, Alberta, premises after a horse there tested positive for equine infectious anemia (EIA).
An accredited veterinarian had drawn a test sample from the horse at the owner’s request in preparation for export to the United States. The horse did not exhibit any clinical signs when sampling occurred.
The CFIA is investigating and has put movement controls on other contact animals on the premises. Controls will remain in effect until all disease response protocols have been fulfilled, including additional testing and ordering confirmed cases be destroyed.
Officials have recommended improved biosecurity measures to the owners and might perform trace-out activities at additional premises as required by policy.
Equine infectious anemia is a viral disease that attacks horses’ immune systems. The virus is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids from an infected to an uninfected animal, often by blood-feeding insects such as horseflies. It can also be transmitted through the use of blood-contaminated instruments or needles.
A Coggins test screens horses’ blood for antibodies that are indicative of the presence of the EIA virus. Most U.S. states require horses to have proof of a negative Coggins test to travel across state lines.
Once an animal is infected with EIA, it is infected for life and can be a reservoir for the spread of disease. Not all horses show signs of disease, but those that do can exhibit:
- Progressive condition loss;
- Muscle weakness;
- Poor stamina;
- Depression; and
EIA has no vaccine and no cure. A horse diagnosed with the disease dies, is euthanized, or must be placed under extremely strict quarantine conditions (at least 200 yards away from unaffected equids) for the rest of his life.