Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a viral disease with no vaccine and no cure. Though most horses with EIA die from the disease, a percentage recover. They still harbor the virus and during times of stress may become ill again. Horses are tested for EIA so these healthy appearing horses do not put other truly healthy horses at risk.
Horseflies are primary carriers in the spread of EIA, transmitting the disease by biting an infected horse and then biting a healthy horse. The disease doesn’t live longer than 15 to 30 minutes, so horses must be in close proximity to one another in order to become infected.
There are three different sets of EIA symptoms: acute, chronic and asymptomatic.
Horses suffering from acute infection will show signs of a fever, depression and no appetite. Diagnosis can often be difficult because the symptoms are very general, and she will not register positive on the EIA test for a month and a half. Approximately one third of infected horses will die of the acute form within 30 days.
- A chronically infected horse will have recurring acute symptoms along with weight loss, ventral edema and anemia. They will test positive on an EIA test, but most will die within a year.
- Asymptomatic horses will not show any symptoms, but will test positive for EIA.
- The Coggins test is a simple test that will show if a horse has EIA by checking for EIA antibodies in the horse’s blood.
By taking a number of precautions, owners can help prevent the spread of EIA:
– Test your horse yearly for EIA
– Use disposable syringes and needles
– Keep stables and immediate facilities clean and sanitary
– Implement insect controls
– Do not intermingle infected and healthy animals
– Isolate all new horses until they have been tested for EIA
It is everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of EIA. If you suspect a horse has EIA, call us or the state animal health agency immediately. Because of owner compliance with EIA testing, there has been a marked decline in cases in the last 20 years. Do yourself and horse owners everywhere a favor by having your horse tested. The cost is minimal and the price well worth the peace of mind.