Contact Information
Press Release
October 8, 1999
Equine Placement Network, Inc.
Press Releases

Equine Infectious Anemia Outbreak In PA


UPDATE 11-20-99


The PA Department of Agriculture has confirmed that 14 horses have tested positive on the Coggins Test for Equine Infectious Anemia, EIA. More horses in 3 barns are under quarantine in Wayne and Susquehanna Counties. Reportedly more barns will be placed under quarantine by the PA Department of Agriculture.This brings the total EIA positive cases in PA to 16 for 1999.

One of the positive horses from the Harford, PA horse sale ended up in New York and was euthanised and buried. Some of the EIA positive horses, former summer riding camp horses, were shipped to a Texas slaughterhouse for slaughter for human consumption overseas. It is legal to ship EIA positive horses through approved livestock markets for sale to slaughter.

Code of Federal Regulations] [Title 9, Volume 1, Parts 1 to 199] [Revised as of January 1, 1998] From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access [CITE: 9CFR71.20]

(ii) Any horses classified as EIA reactors and accepted by the facility for sale shall be placed in quarantined pens at least 200 yards from all non-EIA-reactor horses or other animals, unless moving out of the facility within 24 hours of arrival.

(iii) Any horses classified as EIA reactors and accepted by the facility for sale shall be consigned from the facility only to a slaughtering establishment or to the home farm of the reactor in accordance with 9 CFR part 75.

According to Veterinary Services at the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA,

"Equine infectious anemia (EIA) is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease of members of the horse family."

The first horse to test positive in this recent outbreak, was sold through a horse auction in Harford, PA on September 18, 1999. People in attendance at the auction that day, place the number of horses sold as over 150. The PDA is reporting a 138 horses were sold.The horse that tested positive, a Belgain workhorse was reported to be in poor condition by horsemen attending the sale. This horse went to New York State.

This particular horse auction's policy is to require horses to have negative Coggins Tests before sale. But, if a horse does not have a test, as in this case, blood will be drawn for a Coggins Test prior to sale. PA law does not require that horses have a negative Coggins Test prior to change of ownership, unlike the laws in NJ, NY, MD and other surrounding states. The USDA's Uniform Methods and Rules on EIA, effective January 1, 1998, approved by the American Horse Council, AHC, and the American Association of Equine Practioners, AAEP, recommends that all horses entering horse auctions or sale markets must be tested.

PA, the 6th leading horse state in the country, has yet to adopt these rules.

Prior to being consigned to the sale, it is believed that this horse had spent the summmer at a Wayne County, PA summer camp. Of the 12 horses that have been confirmed positive reactors, 2 horses are also believed to have been at a summer camp(s). According to concerned horse owners, agricultural officials have confirmed that the Belgian was traced back through a horse auction in Lancaster County, PA in May 1999. The horse originated from within PA.

Horses transported within the state of PA are not required by law to have a negative Coggins Test. In NY state, as in some other states, law does require horses transported within the state on a public highway to have a negative Coggins Test.

In a report titled, " EIA--A Status Report on Its Control" (1996) by Tim Cordes, D.V.M., and Chuck Issel, D.V.M., Ph.D.,

"because no one can predict accurately the risk posed by each infected horse over time, veterinarians take the conservative position and assume that each infected horse poses the same threat at all times."

The PA Domestic Animal Act lists EIA as a "dangerous transmissable disease", and requires a negative Coggins Test and a health certificate to accompany horses entering the state.

In recent months the PA State Police in Lancaster County, have stepped up enforcement of the PA law requiring negative Coggins Tests and health certificates on horses entering the Commonwealth. On September 28, 1999 the PA State Police cited horse dealers for bringing horses into PA from NC without the required Coggins Tests. The PA State Police have also stepped up the enforcement of the Domestic Animal Act regarding the licensing of dealers and haulers. This licensure is intended to be of assistance in the traceback of animals in case of a disease outbreak such as this EIA outbreak.

In a June 6, 1999 article by Antoinette Fitch, that appeared in the Pittsburg Post Gazette on horse auctions,(before this recent outbreak)

"According to Dr. Bruce Schmucker, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture veterinarian, the department will become more aggressive in regulating health certification of out-of-state horses at sales."

"We just hadn't given it a high priority in the past and we have been criticized for it," Schmucker says."

According to horse owners who were referred to Dr. Schmucker due to this outbreak, the PA Dept of Agriculture does NOT inspect any horse auctions on a regular basis. The PA Department of Agriculture confirmed it is their responsibility to inspect out of state horses for the required health papers, but that they do not have the time or the manpower to do so.

PA is home to what is commonly referred to in the horse industry, as the "largest weekly horse sale east of the Mississippi", held each week in New Holland, Lancaster County. Horse trailers bearing license plates from Maine to Florida are in attendance at this auction, that as a policy does not require Coggins Tests or health papers as a prequisite for sale.

According to the 1990 Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics Service in a report titled The Pennsylvania Equine Industry Profile, PA's horse industry is an,

" economically important enterprise, ranking equine values second only to dairy cattle among all agricultural commodities."

PA is also reported to have the sixth largest horse population in the country.

Equine infectious anemia, (EIA), is caused by a viral infection that affects the immune system of horses. EIA is most commonly transmitted via blood during interrupted feedings of large biting flies, especially horseflies and deer flies. At this time, there is no treatment or vaccine available for EIA, and horses remain persistently infected with EIA for life. Because infected horses pose a threat to other horses, most states require that horses testing positive for infection by this virus be euthanized or quarantined for life. EIA is a virus infection in horses similar to HIV in humans.

Infected horses may appear normal, and state and federal control programs have been instituted in an attempt to eliminate inapparent carriers. These regulations are not regularly enforced, except by a handful of states.

According to the USDA,

"Until all horses are tested, one must assume that each horse is a potential reservoir of EIAV and take precautions to commingle only with horses whose background is impeccable, i.e., they came from farms where only test-negative horses are found and have never been exposed to test-positive horses."

Many local horse shows, pony club meetings, race tracks, trail rides, and boarding stables also require testing for EIA. The enforcement of these regulations though, is often non-existent.

In a report titled, " EIA--A Status Report on Its Control" (1996) by Tim Cordes, D.V.M., and Chuck Issel, D.V.M., Ph.D.,

"In general terms, there is a low risk of acquiring EIA from an inapparent carrier of EIAV. In fact, the preceived threat of transmission from this source often exceeds the actual risk by several orders of magnitude."

But the report also states,

"all EIA test- positive horses are treated as if they pose the same risk for transmission of the virus, even though at certain moments there may be million-fold differences in the virus content of the blood of individual test-positive,infected horses (Issel and Foil 1991) (fig. 5).

The decision to treat all test-positive horses by the same rules was reached because it is known that each infected horse may develop clinical signs of EIA upon treatment with immunosuppressive drugs and/or in response to natural stressors (Kono1972). These clinical bouts occur in response to a lifting of immunosurveillance mechanisms within the body and the release of higher levels of virus into the blood, which increases the risk of transmission and causes fever."

Transporting horses is a known stressor to horses.

The Equine Placement Network, EPN, has called for the enforcement of the PA Domestic Animal Act requiring negative Coggins Tests on out of state horses. The EPN appreciates the PA State Police's efforts to enforce the laws on Coggins Testing.

The outbreak is located in Region 3. Dr. Patricia McQuiston is the veterinarian at the Region 3 office of PA Department of Agriculture. 570-836-2181.


Related Stories

PA State Police Enforce Laws On Coggins Test
NJ Dealer Waives Hearing