Equine Infectious Anemia

FAQ Index

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    ​What is EIA?

    EIA is a serious, sometimes fatal, blood disease in horses and other equine, including ponies, mules, asses, donkeys and zebras. Also known as swamp fever, mountain fever, slow fever or malarial fever, EIA infects the host's white blood cells. About 30 percent of known EIA cases result in death, usually within two to four weeks of the disease's onset.

    How is EIA transmitted?

    EIA is transmitted through the transfer of infected blood cells. Transmission can occur either through a blood-sucking insect or use of contaminated hypodermic needles or surgical instruments.

    What are the symptoms and incubation time of EIA?

    While the incubation time of EIA is usually one to three weeks, it can take up to three months for symptoms to appear.

    Symptoms include intermittent fever, depression, progressive weakness (especially in the hindquarters), weight loss, swelling of the ventral abdomen and legs, and a progressive or transitory anemia.

    Is there a cure or treatment for EIA?

    There is no specific treatment or vaccine available.

    How is the disease detected?

    The Coggins test, a 24-hour test, is used at many laboratories. Other tests, however, have also been approved for detection purposes, including the one-hour CELISA. The Animal Disease Laboratory in Galesburg offers both tests.

    Is there a laboratory fee?

    Horse owners pay their veterinarian to draw a blood sample, complete the submission form, and submit the sample for testing. In addition, there is a laboratory charge for both the Coggins and CELISA tests when performed at the Animal Disease Laboratory in Galesburg.

    What are Illinois' EIA testing requirements?

    All Illinois equine more than 12 months of age participating in advertised equine events or being loaned, leased, traded or sold are required to have tested negative for EIA within the preceding 12 month period. An "advertised equine event" is any show, rodeo, exhibition, sale, auction, trail ride or horse fair that is posted or media-promoted. This definition also includes all 4-H events at which horses are present, field trials, clinics, not-for-profit events, and racing events.

    What is required for out-of-state equine?

    All equine more than 12 months of age entering Illinois must have a negative EIA test conducted within the preceding 12 month period and be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or health certificate issued within 30 days prior to entry into the state. In addition, an entry permit must be obtained prior to entry into Illinois.

    The only exception is for animals consigned for immediate slaughter, which must be accompanied by a consignment direct to slaughter at an approved equine slaughter establishment.

    Is the test good for more than one change of ownership?

    Yes, as long as the test was conducted within the preceding 12 month period.

    What is required for horses trading hands?

    All equine moving through sales and auctions are required to have a negative test for EIA within 12 months prior to arrival at the sale. Equine being loaned, leased, traded or sold privately are also required to have tested negative within 12 months prior to the transaction, if the animal is more than 12 months old.

    What if the animal arrives at a sale or auction without a negative test?

    The animal is sent home immediately. State law does not allow for blood to be drawn at the market and the animal to be sold "test results pending." A copy of a negative EIA test must accompany any animal older than 12 months for it to be sold or auctioned.

    Who enforces EIA testing requirements?

    The Illinois Department of Agriculture enforces the Illinois Equine Infectious Anemia Control Act. State inspectors randomly check equine events throughout the state. Saddle clubs and sponsoring event committees are not required to check for testing. It is up to them to decide if event participants lacking the necessary test will be allowed to take part. However, if a state inspector is present, the untested animal will immediately be sent home. The animal's owner may also be issued a violation notice and be liable for prosecution.

    What if a horse tests positive for EIA?

    Once a horse is found to be EIA positive, it is considered a carrier of the disease for life and a threat to other horses. Under Illinois law, the horse is permanently identified with a freeze-brand and immediately quarantined in an insect-proof enclosure that has been approved by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The animal can only be removed from this enclosure to be euthanized or shipped to slaughter. Retesting is encouraged after a positive test and should take place within 14 days of the first test.

    Are there ways to prevent EIA?

    There are several steps horse owners can take to prevent the spread of EIA:

    1. Use disposable hypodermic needles (one needle per horse), and sterilize all other skin-penetrating instruments.
    2. Practice sound fly and insect control measures.
    3. Buy only horses that have a current negative EIA test.

    Whom may I contact for more information?

    Illinois Department of Agriculture
    Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare
    P.O. Box 19281
    State Fairgrounds
    Springfield, IL 62794-9281

    217-782-4944
    TDD: 866-287-2999
    FAX: 217-558-6033