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Equine Infectious Anemia

A Ridecamper recently emailed me and asked me what my problem (I have 
several, actually) was concerning the Coggin's test and why I am so against 
it.  Instead of answering in my own words, I'd prefer to share with y'all an 
article I read recently concerning this very subject.  The author's name is 
Don Blazer and I "borrowed" it from "Horse & Pony", a Florida and Georgia 

Equine Infectious Anemia
by Don Blazer

The chances your horse is going to die from Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) 
are slim to none.  The chances your horse is going to die from a Coggins test 
are very good.  Why?  Money!  Do horses die from it?  Sometimes, but rarely.

I asked dozens of veterinarians if they had ever seen a horse die of EIA.  
None had.  I've been a horse owner and trainer for more than 40 years, and 
I've never even seen a horse seriously ill from EIA.

Ask the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) how many horses die from EIA and 
the answer is "we don't have any idea."  Yet it is the Code of Federal 
Regulations, Diseases in Horses, which provides individual states the 
opportunity to adopt a quarantine or euthanize (slaughter) means to eradicate 
the disease.

And most states are doing just that--quarantining and killing useful, 
apparently healthy horses which test positive for EIA.  Has there been 
eradication of the disease over the last 30 years?  Of course not!  Why?  

Is there an EIA epidemic?  NO.  Is the disease easily transmitted?  NO.

Is Equine Infectious Anemia infectious?  Not as horsemen normally think of 
when using the word infectious.  EIA must be transmitted by a vector--biting 
insect or unsterile injection technique.

What are the chances an infected horse is going to infect another horse?  
About one in six million if both horses are close together in the middle of a 
swarm of flies who are constantly being interrupted while trying to feed on 
the blood of the positive horse.  A fly which has not finished feeding on the 
infected horse, has blood on it, then bites the uninfected horse may 
possibly, but not likely infect the healthy horse.

What happens if the horse gets EIA?  He probably lives a long and useful life 
sometimes becoming a little anemic, sometimes a little depressed, sometimes 
running a fever.  He may experience the symptoms numerous times during his 
lifetime, but he owner will most often not even notice.  In fact, USDA 
surveys find the problem so insignificant that more than 50% of horse owners 
didn't even know of EIA, although nearly all horse owners had heard of the 
Coggins test.

If the horse develops an acute case of EIA he will, within a period as short 
as 30 days, run a high temperature, experience depression, weakness and  
rapid pulse.  Other signs of the disease include discharges from the nose and 
eyes, heavy perspiration and colic.  The horse will recover or die within 
five to six weeks.

How many horses die and how many survive acute EIA?  Impossible to tell, as 
most acute cases are euthanized, never given a chance to recover.

Horses with subacute or chronic cases often suffer some weight loss and 
depression with fever.  They usually recover and appear normal until another 
attack, frequently brought on by stress.  While these horses are usually 
anemic, most often they live useful lives, and do not die from EIA.  However, 
once they test positive, they are most frequently slaughtered.  (Quarantine 
regulations are usually impossible for the average horse owner.)

Most Coggins positives are "in apparent carriers" which don't show any signs, 
and don't seem to be infective to other horses.  In fact, it is not known 
under what conditions such a horse could become infective.  "In apparent 
carriers" never die from the disease, but always die from the euthanasia 

So, if the disease isn't a major threat to the life of horses, isn't easily 
transmitted, and isn't keeping horses from living long and useful lives, why 
are we killing them?

Money.  Testing for EIA (primarily the Coggins test) is a 314 million dollar 
business in the United States.  Veterinarians probably net about $10 per 
test, and testing laboratories net about $10 per test.  No individual is 
getting rich, but it is easy, it is fast, and it is income.

Expect more testing.  Now every state requires a Coggins test if you are 
going to transport a horse into the state.  Do the states check on every 
horse which enters the state?  Of course not.

Does more testing mean more money for the labs and vets?  Sure.  Does it mean 
government agencies will have to put on more staff and have bigger budgets?  
You bet!

Do you think state agencies which admit off the record there is little threat 
to horses and the problem is insignificant will say so on the record?  Not on 
your life.  (Arizona has put down about three positive horses per year for 
the last ten years.  There is no record of how many horses died of EIA, 
probably because none did.)

Do you think veterinarians will call for an end to the unnecessary slaughter 
of horses?  Having asked the question, I hope a lot of horsemen, a lot of 
veterinarians and a lot of laboratories get mad.  But before the vets and the 
labs yell, they better come up with some cold, hard figures.

When the horsemen yell because they are tired of having government kill their 
horses, maybe the noise will wake up the politicians who have allowed this 
disaster in the fist place.  Politicians write bad laws, then fail to correct 
them because they are too lazy, too self-serving, too ignorant of the facts 
and too unwilling to do their job.  Unfortunately for horses and horsemen, it 
will take politicians (if you can get them to do the right thing) to put a 
stop to the bureaucrats-state veterinarians and agricultural departments-who 
are building their empires and retirement on a no-fact crisis.

Isn't that the way so many make their money--cry crisis, grab the bucks?

Horsemen, you'd better start riding today; one of these days your horse could 
be marked for death--Coggins positive.
Howard (if we don't fight back they'll just keep taking more and more till we 
have nothing left to give)

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