By Erin Ryder
Due to the ongoing investigation into equine piroplasmosis in the state of Texas, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's state veterinarian's office has opted to require testing of all horses from Texas entering the state of Kentucky.
A statement released Oct. 29 indicated that more than 100 horses in Texas have now tested positive, and noted some of the positive horses were not known to have had direct contact with the previously identified group of infected horses. This might indicate that natural transmission of the causative agent (which can be spread via ticks) has occurred.
All Texas resident horses (within the state for the past 30 days or more) seeking to enter Kentucky are required to have a negative cELISA for the protozoal parasites that cause equine piroplasmosis. Under the current protocol, the test results will qualify a horse for entry for 12 months.
The USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, is currently the only facility approved to conduct testing for equine piroplasmosis.
An entry permit issued by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and recorded on the Texas certificate of veterinary inspection will also be required.
Canada has also restricted the importation of horses from Texas. The American Horse Council said in a statement that effective Oct. 21, the USDA will not endorse any export health certificates for equines to Canada from Texas. Equines being exported to Canada from other states must have additional certification that during the previous 21 days the animal has not been in the state of Texas. This restriction is in place until further notice.
Equine piroplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by either of two protozoal parasites that attack the red blood cells. Affected animals can exhibit fever, anemia, weight loss, jaundice, and, in some cases, clinical signs lead to death.
The only treatment is a potent type of chemotherapy that can have serious side effects in some horses. The disease is spread by ticks, the use of contaminated needles, and possibly through blood-contaminated semen of infected stallions. Officials in the United States have screened all imported horses for piroplasmosis for nearly 30 years, and the disease was officially eradicated from the United States in 1988.