North Carolina horse owners are being urged to guard against equine piroplasmosis after 11 horses were confirmed with the infectious disease. The horses were found in four counties: Robeson, Sampson, Harnett, and Wake, and farms are now under quarantine. There currently are no movement restrictions on horses within North Carolina or between other states.

According to Tom Ray, DVM, MPH, North Carolina's director of Animal Health Programs, the source of the outbreak is due to management practices (sharing needles) rather than the typical cause of piroplasmosis--ticks. "North Carolina is not home to the type of ticks that are vectors of the disease like Texas and other Gulf states," said Ray.

Instead state veterinary officials are pushing horse owners to refrain from using the same needles on different horses. "We are not ignoring ticks as vectors of the disease, but our main message we’re trying to get out is to not share needles," he continued. This is only the second case of piroplasmosis in North Carolina. The disease was eradicated from the United States in 1988, only to make a comeback 20 years later in Florida. The first case in North Carolina was reported two years ago when two horses purchased from a ranch in Texas tested positive for the tick-borne disease. Those horses are rechecked routinely and are under on-site quarantine and are unrelated to the 11 new cases.

Equine piroplasmosis is caused by the blood-borne parasites Theileria equi and Babesia caballi and can be spread by the bite of an infected tick, the use of contaminated needles, and possibly through blood-contaminated semen of infected stallions.

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Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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