On January 22, 2021, positive equine infectious anemia (EIA) results were confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) national reference laboratory for seven horses located on a premises in Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta. The CFIA had sampled several equines at the newly affected premises as part of a disease investigation that began in 2020.

The property is home to an animal rescue organization and equines from various other locales have travelled through there. Clinical signs indicating EIA infection were noted by veterinarians when the animals were sampled.

EIA, sometimes referred to as “swamp fever,” is a viral disease of horses, donkeys and mules. It is only occasionally fatal, and is transmitted through contaminated blood from one horse to another. Biting insects such as mosquitoes act as a vector for the disease. EIA can also be transmitted through semen from an infected stallion.

Infected horses may show signs including anorexia, depression, general weakness, fever, jaundice, hemorrhages under the tongue and eye, swelling of the extremities and weight loss. Foals infected prior to birth are often aborted, or die within two months of birth.

EIA is controlled through voluntary testing (Coggins test). There is no treatment, cure or vaccine for the disease, and once infected, horses remain carriers for life. Options include euthanasia or a lifetime quarantine.

Improved biosecurity protocols have been strongly recommended to the owners of the Alberta rescue to help control the ongoing spread of EIA and protect the national herd. A CFIA investigation is underway and as per program policy, movement controls have been placed on the infected horses and any on-premises contact animals and will remain until all disease response activities have been completed, including follow-up testing and ordering the destruction of confirmed cases. Trace-out activities may require the CFIA to undertake actions at additional premises as outlined in the current policy.

See all recent EDCC alerts here.

More info about EIA on this Fact Sheet.

~ with files from the Equine Disease Communication Center