The Denton county Equine industry generates an estimated $111 million annually to the local economy, and is home to more than 26,000 horses. With this in mind there might be a chance that someone in the county will receive a horse or pony for Christmas.
Bob Hillman, D.V.M., Executive Director with the Texas Animal Health Commission recommends that if you are planning to put a horse, donkey, mule or other domestic equine animal under the tree this year, make certain that it has tested negative for equine infectious anemia (EIA), also known as Swamp Fever or Coggin’s disease.
Texas law requires that equine animals eight months of age or older have a negative blood test (Coggin’s) for EIA, an incurable viral disease, within 12 months prior to a change in ownership. (Nursing foals, transferred with their tested dams, are exempt from the test.) The EIA test document, also known as a VS 10-11, is sufficient proof of testing.
EIA can cause equine animals to develop severe anemia. With an incubation period of 2 to 4 weeks, the virus affects the vascular (blood) system and localizes in the spleen, liver, kidney, and lymph nodes. Although some infected animals exhibit no obvious clinical signs, others may become depressed, exhausted, lose weight, or be unable to exercise or work. In acute cases, the animal will die.
No EIA vaccine is approved in the U.S., so animals must be protected from exposure to the virus. The disease is spread through the transfer of infected blood. This event can occur when biting insects feed on an infected equine animal, then move to feed on a nearby “clean” horse. Blood transfusions or reusing contaminated needles or veterinary medical instruments also can mechanically carry the virus from infected to clean animals.
The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency, requires EIA-positive equine animals to be euthanized, donated to a research facility, or maintained under quarantine for life, at least 200 yards from other horses. Increased testing, movement controls for infected equine animals, and greater disease awareness has helped control EIA in Texas. In 1997, 750 EIA infected animals were detected in the state; in 2008 there were 26 initial positives, and as of early December 2009, numbers dropped to about 10 EIA infected equine animals.
Eddie Baggs, Denton County Extension Agent-Agriculture
Texas AgriLife Extension – Denton County
(940) 349-2880 or Metro (972) 434-8812
Educational programs conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.