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Department confirms presence of Equine Infectious Anaemia

The Department of Agriculture and Food has today confirmed the presence of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) in a small number of horses in the Meath/Kildare area. These are the first cases of EIA recorded in Ireland.

Investigations are continuing to determine the extent of the infection which, in this case, is thought to have been caused by the use of infected equine serum being used in the treatment of another equine disease. The Department is also tracing those horses which, in the past three months, have passed through those farms on which the infected animals were located.

EIA is a virus disease of horses which can cause of range of symptoms, including death. In view of the potential for mortality and given the high movement of horses throughout the country over the past few months, the Department is advising stud owners/managers and other horse owners to have their horses tested for any evidence of the presence of the disease. The general incubation period for the disease is one to three weeks.

The Department is particularly anxious that all reasonable steps should be taken by owners of horses to ensure that the Department can continue to certify horses for export, where such certification is required.

Owners of horses are advised to keep them away from areas in which there are likely to be large concentrations of horseflies, including wetlands and wooded areas, until such time as they have satisfied themselves that their horses are free of EIA.

15 June, 2006

Note for Editors

Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) or 'swamp fever' is a persistent viral infection of all equines. The disease is exclusively an animal health isuue and has no public health consequences. The virus is usually transmitted mechanically, most commonly through blood-sucking insects (Tababus or Stomoxys species) or through the use of blood contaminated instruments or needles.

While the Tababus or Stomoxys species are not native to Ireland, transmission of the disease may occur where there are large numbers of horseflies in proximity to acutely affected horses and occurs most often during periods of high insect activity, in low-lying swampy areas close to woodlands. Transmission of infection via colostrums or semen is uncommon.

Horses infected with EIA virus may take up to three weeks to show clinical signs of the disease, which include intermittent fever, small haemorrhages in the mucous membranes, anaemia, dependant swelling and death. Pregnant mares suffering from the disease may infect their foals transplacentally. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and a blood test for antibodies to the virus.

EIA has a worldwide distribution. Early in the last century, serious outbreaks occurred in France, Japan and America. During the 1980s the disease was reported in many parts of America, Asia (India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand), Europe (Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Romania, USSR and Yugoslavia) and Australia.

Date Released: 15 June 2006