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Horse Racing: Swamp fever fears in Ireland as more cases confirmed.

Byline: By Rachel Pagones

FOUR new cases of the potentially fatal horse virus Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) were confirmed in Ireland at the weekend and a high-profile veterinary clinic was temporarily shut down as officials intensified their effort to stamp out the disease, which was first reported in Ireland in mid-June.

A total of nine horses have now tested positive for EIA, commonly known as 'swamp fever', and 11 premises have been affected, said a spokesman for the Irish Department of Agriculture yesterday.

He confirmed that Troytown Veterinary Hospital in Kildare, one of the country's leading veterinary surgeries, was among the premises on which restrictions have been placed. The length of Troytown's closure is indefinite, but "will be subject to ongoing review" said the spokesman.

Authorities are particularly concerned because of the fluid movement of horses between Ireland and Britain, especially at the end of the breeding season. The incubation period of EIA is generally in the range of one to three weeks.

With the help of the Irish authorities, Defra has traced 14 horses who have been returned to Britain from affected regions. All of these have tested negative since being placed under quarantine and treated with insect repellent upon their return.

"All of them have tested negative on at least one occasion and most of them more than once, and we will continue to restrict them until such time as we are content," said Defra spokesman Graeme Cooke last night.

He added: "All along we have been given very clear information [from the Irish authorities] on at-risk horses. The incident is far from finalised, but the important thing is that the risk group has not increased."

Authorities are also concerned because the disease is, as its name implies, highly infectious. When asked what measures the Irish government might take to prevent further infection, the Department of Agriculture spokesman said: "We are keeping the matter under constant review and will take prudent precautions when necessary."

He did not rule out the closure of racecourses or sales grounds, saying of such measures: "It's a possibility."

Bloodstock sales companies are also taking precautionary measures. Tattersalls and Goffs agreed at a meeting held with other industry and government representatives in Ireland last week to require all horses entered in their sales to provide evidence of a negative test for EIA, known as a Coggins test. Doncaster Bloodstock Sales managing director Henry Beeby also said last night that DBS would require a negative Coggins test, beginning with its August Sales, set for August 8 to 10.

EIA causes intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and death in horses. It is known as 'swamp fever' because it is often caused by biting insects and typically occurs in low-lying swampy areas. The outbreak is believed to have originated with infected blood serum. Biting insects and "contaminated utensils" are also being investigated as possible vectors, said the Department of Agriculture spokesman.

At least six cases of the disease have been reported in Italy recently. When asked if there was a connection between the Irish and Italian outbreaks, the spokesman replied: "We are in the process of enquiring how the serum was brought into the country as part of our ongoing investigation."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2006
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