The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed a case of equine infectious anemia in a Saskatchewan horse.
This is the first case in the province this year but there have been several in Alberta. Saskatchewan usually has the highest number of positive cases, according to CFIA statistics.
The positive test was confirmed July 20 after testing on a horse from a farm in the Rural Municipality of Great Bend, near Borden.
“The infected horse was tested by an accredited veterinarian as a condition of a potential introduction to another premises,” said CFIA in an emailed statement. “The move to another premises did not happen as a result of the positive test.”
According to the Canadian Quarter Horse Association, the infected horse had travelled extensively within Saskatchewan for work and competition but displayed no clinical signs of disease.
As per CFIA policy, the home premises of the horse is under quarantine and other horses are being tested.
“The disease response is ongoing and the CFIA is issuing notification to other parties as required, but it is not currently known if additional movement controls will be required,” CFIA said.
Positive cases are typically euthanized and owners are eligible for compensation through CFIA.
Saskatchewan’s provincial veterinarian, Dr. Betty Althouse, said EIA has been a disease of ongoing concern for the last 10 years although the numbers have been dropping.
In 2011, there were 102 cases in the province, compared to nine last year.
Althouse said EIA is a retrovirus similar to AIDS in that it can hide out in the immune system and persist in a carrier state.
The disease is spread by blood and body fluids.
“The horse can look perfectly normal and still cause risk,” Althouse said.
Althouse said horse owners are urged to test, and she is concerned that fewer animals are being tested as the number of positives has declined.
“If you know they’re negative, you decrease the risk to everyone,” she said. “I do expect that if we’re testing reasonable numbers, we will find the odd case.”
She advises horse owners to test early in spring before fly season and practice good fly control because horse flies and deer flies are usually responsible for spreading the disease.
“The other obvious one, because it is spread through blood, is don’t share needles,” Althouse said.