Rare disease found in horse located in the SLRD 

Case of equine infectious anemia was diagnosed on May 29

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A rare and dangerous disease has been identified in a horse located in the Squamish-l District.

The horse has been diagnosed with equine infectious anemia (EIA), a potentially fatal disease that affects horses and other members of the equine family, such as donkeys and mules.

According to the U.S.-based Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC), the diagnosis was made on May 29 and no clinical signs were present at the time of the testing.

The EDCC reported that there are several equines on the affected property and that they will be quarantined until "follow-up testing and ordering the destruction of positive cases" can be complete.

According to Nathaniel White, director of the EDCC, EIA is primarily spread via dirty needles and insects such as horse and deer flies.

Contracting EIA can result in a host of ailments, including jaundice, anorexia, and hemorrhages, and can prove deadly.

The severity of the symptoms depends on the "load of virus" and health of the horse, explained White.

"(The horse) can have its red blood cells diminished to the point where it's deadly," he said.

There is no vaccination for EIA, said White.

"That's the problem," he added, "because otherwise we could try to control it with a vaccine."

While efforts to control the disease have been relatively successful, there has been an increase in cases in recent years, said White.

"More have been detected in the last couple years, due to ... horses from Mexico" involved in "non-regulated racing," he said.

EIA is generally detected when a horse is sold or crosses borders.

In Canada, EIA is monitored and controlled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

On its website, it noted that the occurances of EIA in tested horses in Canada are "extremely low."

The website also said that control of the disease is based on voluntary testing by owners, destruction or lifelong quarantine of infected animals, and mandatory testing of imported equines.

EIA is a "reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act, meaning that all suspected cases must be reported by to the (CFIA)," it states.

According to White, with the proper response, EIA can be controlled.

"It's usually just one horse (diagnosed), unless there is a group of horses that have had a dirty needle injection," said White.

That said, it is vital that government agencies and horse owners work effectively to control its spread, he explained.

"(EIA is) very serious, because it can cause death, debilitation and emaciation," said White.

His advice for horse owners in the Sea to Sky: "They should be cognizant of the potential for it ... and they should have their horses tested, particularly if they are travelling."

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