eia in alberta

On Nov. 21, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) National Reference Laboratory confirmed a case of equine infectious anemia (EIA) in a horse on a premises in the county of Athabasca, Alberta, Canada, the Equestrian Canada reported Nov. 30.

“The horse had been sampled by an accredited veterinarian to comply with U.S. import conditions,” a statement on Equestrian Canada’s website said. “No clinical signs of disease were noted at the time of sampling.

“A CFIA investigation is underway and as per program policy, a quarantine has been placed on the infected animal and its on-premises contact animals,” Equestrian Canada said. “Initial reports indicate there are several equines on the affected premises. The quarantine will remain until all disease response activities have been completed, including follow-up testing and ordering the destruction of positive cases.”

EIA 101

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 a uninfected animal, often by blood-feeding insects such as horseflies. It can also be transmitted through the use of blood-contaminated instruments or needles.

Coggins test screens horses’ blood for antibodies that are indicative of the presence of EIA. Most U.S. states require horses to have proof of a negative Coggins test in order to travel. 

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;
  • Fever;
  • Depression; and
  • Anemia.

There is no vaccine and no cure. A horse diagnosed with EIA 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.