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The EIA test.

Everywhere, it seems, everyone involved with horses is concerned about the possibility of an illness called EIA. EIA stands for Equine Infectious Anemia, also occasionally known as "swamp fever." This retrovirus infection is transmitted by blood, and can affect any member of the horse family (horses, ponies, mules, and so forth).

Horse shows and county fairs require that horses entered in competitions or those that are stabled on the grounds possess a negative Coggins test. Many states and provinces have made it law that all horses traveling interstate must be carrying negative papers. What is EIA and why is it important to the horse industry?

When this disease is contracted, it often goes unnoticed until symptoms occur. The cells that are targeted are the macrophages, large white blood cells that travel through the body looking for foreign material.

There are three types of the illness: acute, subacute, and chronic. The acute illness is accompanied by a high fever, weakness, swelling of the lower legs and abdomen, irregular heartbeat and a weak pulse. The death rate is high. Sudden death is common in the acute cases.

The subacute illness progresses much more slowly than the acute illness and is less severe. Symptoms include anemia, recurrent fever, and swelling of the lower chest, abdomen and legs.

Finally, the chronic illness is also characterized much like the subacute type. Its symptoms also include recurrent fever and anemia. It is the least severe of all three types, and many people may not realize that the horse has contracted the virus until a Coggins test is performed. Equine Infectious Anemia is caused mainly by biting insects that draw and carry blood. The fly or mosquito transmits the disease by biting an infected animal and then transmits the virus to a healthy animal.

But the virus can be spread by other ways, too. It can be transmitted by saliva, milk, and body secretions. Blood transfusions and unsterile syringes have also been known to spread the virus in some cases. Cleanliness goes a long way to ensuring your horse's health.

The sad news is that there is no known cure for EIA. The infected horse will always be considered a threat to horses everywhere, especially if there are other horses nearby. The only way to safeguard other horses is to either quarantine or humanly destroy the infected horse. The horse may be clinically fine, but the risk to other horses remains high. Putting the animal down is the only realistic option at this time.

When testing the horse for the disease, your veterinarian will draw some blood from the horse, and put the samples into the small wells on a test tube plate. The plate is covered with a gel containing antibodies. The blood proteins will spread through the gel, and if EIA proteins are present, they will react with the antibodies, forming a visible line. This means it is "positive," meaning the horse is positive for the disease. The opposite will happen if the horse is negative. Often the blood samples are sent to a state veterinarian for the testing.

But we can still work to prevent the disease from spreading. Keeping the barns and paddocks clean, dumping standing water, and working to make our farms and ranches as bug and insect-free as possible will go a long way to ensure our horse's overall health. Also, having your veterinarian out to have the Coggins test done at least once a year will also help keep EIA at bay.


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Title Annotation:Equine Infectious Anemia or horse swamp fever
Author:Timonen, Hannah
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 2014
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