Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) - What to expect if your animals may be infected

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Introduction

This brochure gives you information about what happens when equine infectious anemia (EIA) is suspected or detected on your farm.

About equine infectious anemia

EIA is a potentially fatal disease that affects horses and other members of the equine family, such as donkeys and mules.

The EIA virus is most commonly transmitted on the mouthparts of horse flies and deer flies. The virus can also be transmitted by needles, syringes or surgical instruments, or through the semen of an infected stallion. Foals can be infected in utero, and are usually aborted or die within two months of birth.

There is no cure or available vaccine for EIA. It poses no risk to humans.

In Canada, EIA is a "federally reportable disease." This means that producers or veterinarians must notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of all suspected or confirmed cases.

Infected animals may show few clinical signs of disease, particularly in the early stages of infection. However, infected animals remain carriers of the virus for life, putting other animals at risk.

Infected animals may show some of the following signs:

  • anorexia
  • depression
  • general weakness
  • intermittent fever up to 41ºC
  • jaundice
  • bleeding under the tongue and eye
  • swelling of the extremities
  • weight loss
  • loss of coordination*

*Note: loss of coordination may be the only clinical sign observed.

EIA control

The CFIA takes disease control actions in response to EIA. These can be triggered by:

  • a positive sample found through a voluntary testing program,
  • an investigation of at-risk animals associated with another EIA-positive horse, or
  • test results from a horse with clinical symptoms.

While all disease response situations are different, the steps involved in an EIA response normally include the following:

  • quarantine
  • investigation
  • destruction of infected animals
  • compensation

Quarantine

If animals are suspected of being infected with EIA, a CFIA inspector (usually the district veterinarian) will visit the farm to meet with you. At that stage, a precautionary quarantine may be placed on the equines on the premises. You will receive documentation outlining the rules of the quarantine. The CFIA representative will also answer any questions you may have.

Quarantines are necessary to control the potential spread of disease. Because EIA is spread by contaminated blood transmitted by insect bites, your facilities should be able to prevent biting insects from coming into contact with infected equines.

Under the quarantine, no equines are allowed to enter or leave the property, unless their movement is licensed by the CFIA.

While the quarantine is in effect, you also have certain responsibilities, including:

  • maintaining fences and gates around the premises to control the movement of animals and animal products on and off the property;
  • informing all persons entering the premises of the quarantine;
  • reporting all sick and dying animals, and any that escape the premises; and
  • cleaning and disinfecting any equipment that may have been used with infected animals.

Investigation

Blood testing is required to confirm whether or not an equine is infected with EIA.

If infection is confirmed, the CFIA will also review farm records to determine any movements and contact the infected animal has made with other susceptible animals in the past 30 days. You may be asked to provide:

  • herd inventory records
  • veterinary records and laboratory reports
  • a detailed description of farm management practices
  • records of purchases/sales of animals, including those sent to slaughter
  • a map of the farm
  • contact information for your veterinary practitioner

If EIA is confirmed, all other susceptible equine on the premises will also be tested for the disease.

Your cooperation and that of any other parties involved is critical to the success of the investigation and ultimately to the control of the disease.

Destruction of infected animals

Equines that test positive for EIA and are exhibiting strong clinical signs of the disease will be ordered destroyed by the CFIA.

Equines that test positive for EIA but are not exhibiting clinical signs of the disease may be ordered destroyed or placed under permanent quarantine, where appropriate.

Once infected equines have been destroyed, other susceptible equines that had contact with the infected animal(s) are tested. These animals must test negative for EIA twice before the quarantine can be removed; the second test being at least 45 days after the last date when contact with an infected equine could have taken place.

Confidentiality

As directed by the Privacy Act and other federal statues, the CFIA is required to protect private information collected. Any information provided by you during a disease response situation is treated as confidential, unless otherwise indicated.

Compensation

Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate owners of animals ordered destroyed during EIA response situations. Compensation awards are based on market value, up to the maximum amounts established by the regulations.

For more details on the compensation process, please see the brochure Animal Health Compensation: What to expect when an animal is ordered destroyed.

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