Twelve cases of Equine Infectious Anemia were confirmed in Nebraska this month by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
According to a news release posted by the department, the contagious disease was discovered in the northwest section of Cherry County, which prompted an epidemiological investigation.
Ten of the 12 horses confirmed with the disease were humanely euthanized as no treatment options are available for infected horses. The two surviving horses were taken to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for work related to EIA testing.
Quarantines were issued on horses that were associated with the initial herd, but test results on these animals have come back negative and the outbreak is thought to be contained.
However, horse owners are still urged to take preventative measures at home and on the road.
The Cherry County herd in Nebraska will remain under quarantine and have additional testing in the next few months to ensure the disease issue has been fully addressed.
First recognized in North America in Wisconsin in the late 1800s, EIA, sometimes referred to as “Swamp Fever,” is a contagious blood-borne disease, typically transmitted by biting insects, such as horseflies, deerflies and mosquitoes, but can be transmitted from horse-to-horse through used needles.
The disease is rare. As of 2005, the incidence appears to be less than eight horses positive for 100,000 horses tested.
EIA Tips from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture
Symptoms include fever, depression, weight loss, swelling and anemia, according to officials with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Owners who notice these signs in their animals should contact a veterinarian immediately, as there is no cure for EIA, but controlling the disease can prevent it from spreading.
All infected horses, including those that test positive but do not show symptoms, are potential carriers of the disease and are considered infectious for life.
Infected animals should be destroyed or remain permanently isolated from other equids to prevent transmission.
If a horse is exhibiting symptoms of EIA, a Coggins test, which is a simple blood test done by a veterinarian, will detect the presence of the disease. The test, which was developed in the 1970s, is often required to transport, show, sell or board a horse and is recommended for owners to have on hand when traveling with their animals, in addition to current health papers from a veterinarian.
Those who are importing horses into Nebraska for show/exhibition or other reasons must follow Nebraska’s horse import regulations, which include the requirement of a negative Coggins test.
Horse owners should take proper biosecurity precautions to reduce the risk of infection in their herd.
This includes sanitizing stalls and bedding that have housed a sick horse, or a horse that is new to the facility.
Also, new horses should be quarantined to diminish the potential for sharing infections.
When working with sick horses, advise all people who come into contact with the animal to disinfect boots and wash hands before handling other horses.
Do not share equipment with others unless it is properly sanitized before being used again.
It is even a good idea to keep horses or show horses that leave home, separate from those who remain on the property.
Most importantly never reuse a needle; always get a new one before administering shots.
Other things to consider are fly control for horses, such as boots, masks and sheets or simply administering fly spray throughout the day to discourage biting insects that might be carrying the disease.
To Learn More
For more information about Equine Infectious Anemia and precautionary measures, go to:
• The Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s website, www.nda.nebraska.gov.
• U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/eia/eia_distribution_maps.htm, for the number of EIA cases in the U.S. for the last eight years by affected state.
• The USDA fact sheet, at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/eia/eia_info_sheet.pdf, regarding the prevalence of EIA in the U.S. from 1972 to 2005. ❖