The Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System (CAHSS) Equine Surveillance Network reported Feb. 27 that five horses in Saskatchewan have tested positive for equine infectious anemia (EIA).
“On Feb. 22, positive EIA results were confirmed by the CFIA’s (Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s) national reference laboratory for four horses located on a premises in the rural municipality of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, the CAHSS said in an alert on its website. “The horses were epidemiologically linked to a previously identified case in Alberta and were sampled by the CFIA as part of an ongoing disease investigation.
“An additional positive result was reported on Feb. 26, for an epidemiologically linked animal, which was exhibiting clinical signs of disease. All of the infected horses have the same owner, but one animal currently resides on a separate premises.”
The CAHSS said the affected horses and facilities have been quarantined.
“The quarantine will remain until all disease response activities have been completed, including follow-up testing and ordering the destruction of positive cases,” the organization said. “Trace-out activities may require the CFIA to undertake actions at additional premises as outlined in the current 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 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.
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 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;
- Depression; and
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.