Should Testing For EIA be Mandatory
 By Winniefield Park   •   23rd Jun 2016   •   1,076 views   •   0 comments
Should Testing For EIA be Mandatory

If you have your horse regularly vaccinated with the core vaccines, you are going to avoid some of the most dangerous horse diseases out there. The core vaccines are rabies, tetanus, and Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis and depending on where you live, West Nile Virus, Potomac Horse Fever and other specific vaccinations may be recommended by your veterinarian. But, there are a few diseases for which there is no vaccine, and no cure.

Equine Infectious Anemia, also known as EIA or swamp fever is one of those diseases. EIA, as you might recall, is a disease spread by mosquitos and can have devastating outcomes. EIA can also be passed by a mare to her unborn foal. A foal with EIA may be born dead, or will die within a few weeks after birth. EIA isnít spread directly from horse to horse. But, the virus can be carried from one horse to another by a mosquito.

Related: Six Horses in Tennessee Quarantined for Equine Infectious Anemia

A mosquito doesnít really bite. Instead, as revealed in footage by French researchers, a mosquito has a very flexible proboscis that it uses to needle around and find the most blood rich area to snack from. Before it starts to draw blood up its straw like snout, it injects a bit of anticoagulant so the blood doesnít clot before it finish its meal. Itís that anti-coagulant that many of us are sensitive to that makes us itch. If it has sipped from an animal carrying a virus, the virus can reproduce within the mosquito, and when the mosquito needles another animal (or human), some of the virus can be deposited along with the anticoagulant. Within the new host, the virus will start to reproduce, and the body of the horse (or other animal or human) will react to try to fight off the viral infection.

It can take up to 30 days for symptoms of EIA to appear, and when they do they can be easily confused with other problems like heavy workload, hot weather, or reactions to medications. This makes EIA harder to diagnose and gives the virus extra time to do its damage. When EIA is diagnosed, hard decisions have to be made. Often the horse is debilitated from the disease. Some horses recover, or never show obvious symptoms but still carry the virus within their bloodstream. These horses are called asymptomatic carriers. There are two choices for these horses. They must be kept in strict quarantine or they must be euthanized. Because the regulations for quarantine are so rigorous, euthanization may be the only sensible choice.

Fortunately, there is testing for EIA, and where testing is done, there are fewer outbreaks of the virus. Some places, a Coggins or ELISA test is required for competitions. Testing is required for any horses moving from country to country, or from state to state or province. This testing has helped keep the disease in check. But it hasnít eradicated it completely, as learned by an unfortunate woman in Saskatchewan, Canada who was forced to euthanize ten of her horses. The others have been put in quarantine until it is deemed safe to return them to their home. The decision to put her horses down would be indeed devastating, but by doing so, she has saved many others.

There are no hard numbers of how many horses are lost to or infected by EIA, but every summer, during mosquito season, outbreaks do occur. The AAEP claims there are about 1 million of the U.Sís over 6 million horses who are tested, and less than 1% of those 1 million horses test positive for EIA. Testing has proven an effective way to reduce the number of outbreaks. But are we doing enough? The testing is not difficult nor is it expensive. Should there be mandatory testing of EIA? What do you think?
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