GEORGIA - Horse owners can become complacent when year after year, the Coggins test for Equine Infectious Anemia is negative and their horses are free to travel for the next 12 months. But last week three horses at the same facility in Lamar County tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia and were euthanized. The facility is under a 60-day strict quarantine that will be lifted only when all horses at this facility test negative for EIA.
For horse owners, there is no cause for concern that these horses will start an epidemic. While horseflies and deer flies are noted as the best vectors for spreading the disease between horses, veterinary sources site man as the most common source for spreading the EIA disease with various procedures involving shared needles between horses or plasma transfusions. There is no vaccine or cure for EIA but the occurrence of the disease has greatly diminished via yearly testing for positive blood titers in all horses. Owners of EIA positive carriers face the difficult decision to either euthanize or quarantine the horse for life with a minimum 200 yard distance required from other horses. These measures have almost eliminated the reports of the EIA disease today.
A second GA Department is Agriculture report regarding Eastern Equine Encephalitis is cause for more concern. The Georgia Department of Agriculture confirmed EEE cases in the following counties: Bleckley, Colquitt, Cook, Lowndes, Jenkins and Wayne. There have been six total confirmed cases of EEE in Georgia in 2018.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is deadly in 50-90 percent of the horses that contract the disease. Swelling of the brain and other neurological symptoms characterize EEE. With no cure, only therapeutic support can be given. Rarely, the disease may be contracted by people bitten by a mosquito carrier.
Horse owners are urged to keep a yearly vaccination schedule for EEE and the Western Equine Encephalitis which is usually less fatal. The EEE vaccine is typically sold in combination with WEE and tetanus as an economical but very effective vaccine. The American Association of Equine Practitioners also recommends yearly vaccinations for rabies and West Nile virus, two diseases that also can prove fatal for horses.
Although springtime is ideal for vaccinating horses to boost immunity before the summer months, owners can vaccinate horses now. Prevention with vaccinations is definitely more affordable than treatment of a sick horse or the emotional toll of losing or burying an equine friend.
Contact local veterinarians for more information on vaccinations and testing for EIA.