Equine Infectious Anemia confirmed in Nebraska horse

Horses not infected with West Nile Virus. (Journal stock photo.)

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture July 4 announced a confirmed case of equine infectious anemia in a horse located in Colfax County. This is the first confirmed case of EIA since 2013 in the state. 

NDA staff are working with the owner and local veterinarian to monitor potentially exposed horses. The infected horse is currently quarantined and will be released once state regulations are met. 

Spread by blood-to-blood contact, EIA is an incurable, infectious viral disease and can be transmitted from an infected equine to an uninfected equine by blood-feeding insects such as horseflies, deer flies, or stable flies, and by people using contaminated medical equipment, such as needles, syringes, and IV sets. There are currently no USDA-approved vaccines for EIA. 

The Nebraska State Veterinarian said prevention is simple, but requires some forethought. 

“Equine owners can help limit the spread of EIA by following strict biosecurity measures, by regularly testing equine for diseases such as EIA, and by prioritizing sanitary practices, especially when injecting horses,” Dr. Roger Dudley, state veterinarian said. “Producers and veterinarians play an important role in limiting the spread of EIA and other bloodborne equine diseases by reporting sick equine.”

According to a news release from NDA, common signs of EIA include, but are not limited to, fever, depression, low platelet count, anemia, red or purple spots on the mucous membranes, edema, muscle weakness, and muscle atrophy. EIA can appear as acute, chronic or inapparent. Clinical signs range from mild to severe and appear within a few weeks after infection. However, it may take 60 days or more for the horse to test positive. Infected animals that survive the disease become virus carriers and can infect other equids for life. 

Equine owners can do a number of things to help protect their animals, and this includes things like implementing insect controls, keeping stables and facilities clean, eliminating standing water, using one needle per horse, separating infected equine from the healthy, and never using blood-contaminated medical equipment on multiple equids. 

Because of the nature of EIA, Nebraska has import restrictions for livestock coming into the state from states that have confirmed EIA cases. If you are considering moving an animal into Nebraska from an affected state, please call 402-471-2351 to learn more about the importation order. 

According to the news release, EIA also affects exports. Individuals from Nebraska transporting animals and animal products to other states and countries should contact the destination state/country to learn about their import requirements before transporting animals. 

EIA is a notifiable disease in all states. Individuals or practitioners who suspect or have concerns about EIA should contact NDA at 402-471-2351. For more information on EIA, visit nda.nebraska.gov/animal/diseases/eia/index.html.

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].