Publication - Advice and guidance

Equine infectious anaemia: how to spot and report the disease

Published: 29 Oct 2018

Advice on what to do if you suspect there is an outbreak of this infectious disease.    

Published:
29 Oct 2018
Equine infectious anaemia: how to spot and report the disease

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA), also known as swamp fever, affects horses, donkeys, mules, zebras and other equidae. It is a retrovirus commonly transmitted by blood-sucking insects. It does not affect humans.

Latest situation: the last outbreak of EIA in Great Britain was in 2012.

Clinical signs

Some infected animals do not show signs of disease, or signs are overlooked because they don’t last for long.

Clinical signs can include:

  • recurring fever
  • tiredness, weakness and depression
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • frequent urination
  • diarrhoea
  • paralysis of the hindquarters
  • pinpoint bleeding beneath the tongue
  • pale mucosal membranes
  • discoloration (yellowing) of the eyes
  • rapid breathing and accelerated pulse
  • abortion in pregnant mares

Potential lifetime carriers occur because the virus persists in white blood cells.

EIA can present as a recurring fever, but most progress to silent carrier states. 

If you suspect signs of any notifiable diseases, you must immediately notify your Scotland: field service local office at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Failure to do so is an offence. 

How equine infectious anaemia is spread

EIA is most commonly transmitted by large horseflies which are usually active from May to September, peaking in July and August. EIA can also be transmitted through blood and saliva spread through medical equipment, instruments and needles, as well as milk, and body secretions, such as semen of infected animals.

The horseflies may only travel short distances to feed, but the virus can be carried over long distances by infected horses or contaminated equipment and products.

Vaccination

There is no vaccination available for EIA. The key to prevention is the identification and restriction of infected horses.

Human health implications

There are no human health implications because the disease is not zoonotic.

How to control the disease

The outbreak will be controlled in line with contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.

Legislation

The main domestic legislation on EIA is the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987.

Biosecurity

The Government's policy on disease control is that prevention is better than cure. This approach works by reducing the chances of a disease entering the animal population, and if it does then it can be quickly spotted and dealt with through the preventative measures.

You can help prevent disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises. Our equine biosecurity guidance outlines practical, day-to-day actions that can be easily adopted in order to reduce the potential for the introduction or spread of disease-causing agents.

Contact

If you suspect signs of any notifiable diseases, you must immediately notify your Scotland: field service local office at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Failure to do so is an offence.