DEFRA confirmed in early 2010 that Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) had been detected in two horses in Wiltshire following importation from Romania via Belgium.

It is unlikely this will affect any animals cared for by Parkside Equine because the cases are confined to one area in England and have been detected following post importation blood testing. In addition, the biting insects that transmit the disease are not active at this time of the year - the cold weather is a good thing in this situation! We are sending out this information to keep everyone informed.

The premises were under restriction and the two infected horses were humanely destroyed in line with existing regulations. The other horses on the premises were subject to epidemiological investigation in the coming weeks. A further two horses had also been under investigation and test results have proved negative.

The animals arrived in a group of 10 horses, nine of which originated from Romania and one from Belgium. The nine Romanian horses were tested for EIA as part of routine post-import testing. Seven horses all tested negative. The horse that originated in Belgium is due to be tested shortly.

This is the first case of equine infectious anaemia infecting animals being imported into Great Britain since 1976. These were apparently healthy horses carrying a notifiable disease, but it does show we must be vigilant especially with imports and possible contacts at shows.

Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) is an exotic viral disease that affects horses, mules and donkeys. It is caused by a lentivirus and is spread via biting insects. EIA causes intermittent fever, anaemia, jaundice, depression, oedema, emaciation and death.

Animals may be acutely, chronically or subclinically affected. The incubation period is variable, from a matter of days to a few months but generally one to three weeks. Antibodies usually develop seven to 14 days after infection and last for life.

Investigation of suspect cases involves checking for other diseases and blood tests looking for antibodies the EIA. This means that disease will not be detected until these antibodies have formed. There is no effective treatment or vaccine for EIA, prevention of this disease getting establised in the United Kingdom is very important to maintain our disease free status.

Horses are most likely to become infected when travelling abroad to countries, or areas of countries, where the disease is endemic such as low lying swampy areas, or from the use of biological products infected with the EIA virus. EIA is often fatal to horses. If the affected animal recovers it remains a lifelong carrier of the disease and will be infectious to other animals, therefore all infected animals must be humanely destroyed to control the spread of disease.

EIA is not a zoonotic disease so has no human health implications.