It's been a rough year for Idaho horse owners as yet another infectious disease makes its rounds across the state. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture warned horse owners back in March of a highly-contagious case of equine herpevirus, and this week, they confirmed a case of equine infectious anemia (EIA).
EIA, also known to horse people as "swamp fever," is most commonly transmitted via biting insects, and if not treated, it can be fatal for horses. Initial symptoms include a low-grade fever and lethargy, and most infected horses progress toward rapid weight loss, tissue yellowing, anemia, and swelling in the limbs. Part of the danger associated with EIA is the fact symptoms often start off subtle and can go unnoticed for weeks. During that time, infected horses pose serious risk of passing on the illness to other horses.
A insect that bites an infected horse can then move on to its next victim and spread the disease. The disease has also been known to spread through needles and other equipment contaminated with infected blood.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment or vaccine for EIA. A Coggins test is used to identify infected horses, and quarantine is important to stop the disease from spreading. This type of test is required every time a horse crosses state lines, and Idaho veterinarians are now encouraging all horse owners to perform the test regardless of future travel plans. Without proper precautions, the disease can easily spread through herds to infect large populations of horses.
Infected horses are required to be quarantined for life, and catching symptoms early is the key to stopping the spread of infection. If your horse seems overly tired or feverish, veterinarians encourage you to separate them from other equines and have them tested for EIA.
Contact the Idaho State Department of Agriculture for more information.