A Utah State University veterinarian warns horse owners of renewed attacks on Utah regulations that require testing for a deadly horse disease.
The disease, Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), is not found in Utah horses. It has been found, however, in horses imported from other states. It occurs throughout the United States, especially in the southern and eastern states, said Clell V. Bagley, USU Extension veterinarian.Bagley said every few years there are some sales people in the horse industry who resurrect efforts to drop testing regulations for EIA because it would be more convenient and less expensive for them.
"That process is apparently underway in Utah again with some sales people who would like to open the barn door," he said.
Utah regulations currently require that all horses entering the state be given a test for EIA, commonly called the Coggins test.
"This regulation and testing is to help protect our resident horses from being infected by other carrier horses which may enter," he said.
At present there is no requirement for testing Utah horses if they remain in the state. Other states do require that horses be tested when transported to those states. Some states with a high incidence of EIA require a test for all in-state shows or any time a horse is sold, he said.
The horse disease is caused by a virus and is spread by horse, deer and stable flies that bite the animal. It is not contagious merely by contact. He said it can be spread, however, by sharing inoculation equipment.
Horses with the disease vary from acute to inapparent carriers. Once the disease is contracted, however, it is permanent. There is no treatment or vaccine for it, he said.
Clinical signs of the disease includes fever, depression, weakness and anemia. He said the more concentrated the virus is in the horse's bloodstream, the greater the chance of death.
If infected horses are allowed to enter the state and remain, Bagley said EIA would become a permanent horse disease in Utah.
"Removing the current regulations for Utah would be of no benefit to 99.999 percent of Utah horse owners," he said. "They would still have to have their horses tested in order to go to another state."
He said other states that regulate for EIA are not going to change their requirements. "They don't want the disease."
If EIA testing regulations are removed from the state, Utah will become a "dumping ground" for anyone wanting to dispose of a positive horse or for horses that are carriers but have not been identified, he said.
"When we get the disease, then there will be a great cry to clean it up," he said. "But that will be much more expensive - if even possible - than prevention. It would be like locking the barn door after the horse is out."