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Cases of Equine Infectious Anemia in Alberta
Reprinted with permission from: Dr. Keith Lehman, Chief Provincial Veterinarian, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry-Animal Welfare Division.
About equine infectious anemia (EIA)
Equine infectious anemia (EIA) affects horses and other members of the equine family, such as donkeys and mules, and it is potentially fatal to those animals. There is no human health risk with EIA. The virus is most commonly transmitted on the mouthparts of horse flies and deer flies. It can also be transmitted by needles, syringes or surgical instruments, or through the semen of an infected stallion. Foals can be infected in utero, and they are usually aborted or die within two months of birth. There is no cure or available vaccine for EIA.
In Canada, EIA is a federally reportable disease, which means that producers or veterinarians must notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of all suspected or confirmed cases. Cases of EIA are not unexpected in Alberta, and in 2017, the CFIA detected several cases in various counties (Beaver, Lacombe, Newell, Red Deer, Sturgeon, and Two Hills).
Signs of EIA and what to do
Infected animals may show few clinical signs of disease, particularly in the early stages of infection. However, infected animals remain carriers of the virus for life, putting other animals at risk. Infected animals may show some of the following signs:
- loss of coordination*
- general weakness
- intermittent fever up to 41°C
- bleeding under the tongue and eye
- swelling of the extremities
- weight loss
*Note: loss of coordination may be the only clinical sign observed.
If you suspect your horse may be infected, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Many other diseases can cause the same signs in horses, which is why it’s so important to call your veterinarian to examine and possibly test your horse for EIA.
Preventing EIA and more information
Ask your veterinarian about preventing EIA in your horses, or visit the CFIA website to learn more about prevention and for general information about EIA.
Premises identification and disease notification
To notify animal owners about cases of EIA and provide them with important information, Agriculture and Forestry uses its provincial premises identification system. Premises identification is one of the critical elements of a strong traceability system.
The premises identification database is a vitally important tool for notifying animal owners of key information – including about diseases, and emergencies such as natural disasters. It is important to have producer or animal owner information in the system as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Information (e.g. contact information, location, species at the location) can be checked to see if it is current or updated by visiting Alberta's Premises Identification Program webpage or calling the Alberta Ag-Info Centre toll-free at 310-FARM (3276).