From Equine Disease Quarterly, a publication funded by Underwriters At Lloyd’s of London, Brokers, And Their Kentucky Agents
Although it seems counter to logic, acquiring equine infectious anemia (EIA) by being alongside an infected carrier horse may be reasonably rare for a foal. Foals of EIA-positive dams with clinically inapparent infections have an excellent chance of being raised uninfected, even if they have been held together in pasture situations with high populations of mechanical vectors of EIA virus (EIAV). A number of factors contribute to this.
Foals appear to be resistant to infection, but data to support this is not available. In a study early fetuses succumbed to infection with a relatively avirulent strain of EIAV, while fetuses inoculated after 204 days of gestation produced antibodies in utero and were born virus- and antibody-positive.
What are the factors that make foals less likely to acquire EIA than adults? The first candidate is passively acquired colostral antibody. Studies suggest that passively transferred antibodies against EIAV may confer a level of protection against disease but do not protect against infection.
Are foals less attractive to vectors, i.e., do they exude fewer or less attractive chemicals to be perceived by the blood-feeding insects? No studies have been conducted demonstrating a statistical difference in attractiveness between foals and adult equids, but we do not know all the cues that vectors use to find their blood sources.
Once the vector perceives a host, defensive behavior of the host often dictates whether or not the vector will feed to repletion or, conversely, repel or interrupt the vector. Small to medium-sized tabanids are more likely to feed to repletion on the first host than larger tabanid species (e.g., Tabanus americanus) provoking defensive behavior in adult horses