Horses are beautiful and strong creatures, but they still depend on their owners to keep them healthy. One disease horse owners should be aware of is Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a virus that can destroy red blood cells, causing weakness, anemia, and death.
Dr. Michelle Coleman, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained how the disease is spread.
“EIA is an infectious viral disease,” Coleman said. “The most common mode of transmission of EIA is by the transfer of virus-infected blood-feeding insects, such as horse flies. It can also be transmitted through the use of blood-contaminated syringes, surgical equipment, or the transfusion of infected blood or blood products. Although uncommon, transmission can also occur through the placenta in infected mares.”
There is no treatment, or safe and effective vaccine, available for this disease, so horses that are positive for EIA should be isolated from other horses. Most horses infected with EIA also do not show any signs of illness or disease, so it is important to constantly maintain good hygiene and disinfection principles, such as controlling insects in the horse’s environment.
If you plan on traveling with your horse, all horses shipped across state lines must be tested for EIA and have a negative result within 12 months of transport. Furthermore, all horses sold, traded, donated, or entering a sale or auction must test negative for the disease. Fortunately, regulatory control of EIA has made this disease relatively uncommon in the United States.
Despite the disease becoming less common, Coleman reminded horse owners to be aware of EIA and routinely test all horses. With proper hygiene and effective health routines, horses across the nation can be kept safe from EIA.
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