Commissioner Steve Troxler: Suspected Case of Equine Infectious Anemia

A recent suspected case of Equine Infectious Anemia in a mule in Transylvania County, NC is a reminder for equine owners to take steps to protect their equine from exposure to the disease.

  • At the beginning of the month, we had a suspected case of Equine Infectious Anemia or EIA in a mule show up at one of animal diagnostic labs.
  • The animal had to be euthanized because of its poor health, so we were not able to get a definitive diagnosis of EIA, but clinical signs at necropsy were consistent with this incurable equine disease.
  • Animal regulatory health officials considered the case to be presumptive positive out of an abundance of caution.
  • According to the N.C. Horse Council, North Carolina has more than 306,000 equine in the state. And, I know equine owners love their animals as much as I love my dog.
  • EIA is most commonly spread between horses, mules and donkeys in close proximity to biting flies. Clinical signs include fever, weakness, weight loss, anemia and edema, and death. But affected equine also may not show any symptoms. It does not affect people, which is good news.
  • Thankfully, there are usually just a small number of cases in the United States each year. Unfortunately, there are no approved vaccines for EIA in the U.S, but there are precautions equine owners can take to protect their animals. The state had a positive case in 2017, before that the last positive EIA case was in 2005.
    • Test all equine for EIA every year, and at the time they enter a new premise.
    • Only participate in events that require evidence of a negative Coggins test for every equine entering the event. This is an important way to prevent potential contact with the disease.
    • Never mix infected and healthy animals. Do not breed equine infected with EIA.
    • Keep stables and other facilities sanitary. Regularly clean stalls and properly dispose of manure away from equine stabling areas.
    • Implement approved insect controls, such as insecticides and good drainage of standing water to minimize fly presence.
    • Use sterile, disposable needles and syringes, one per equine, for all vaccines and medications.
    • And, of course, contact your local veterinarian if you have concerns about your animal’s health.