Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

July 08, 2016

New York State Reminds Horse Owners to Take Preventative Measures to Protect Against Equine Infectious Anemia

Emphasizes Importance of EIA Testing and Best Management Practices to Prevent the Disease

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today reminded horse owners and equine event managers in New York about the importance of taking preventative measures to protect horses against Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).

Commissioner Ball said, “EIA is a serious threat to horses, but protecting these animals from getting sick is possible by following a few simple steps. I encourage all horse owners and equine event managers to carefully review the State’s regulations for EIA testing and recommendations for the best practices to avoid the spread of this disease.”

New York State experienced two outbreaks of EIA since 2014 and the number of confirmed EIA cases has increased nationally.  The disease, while not a threat to humans, can be fatal in horses.  It is caused by a virus found in the blood of infected horses. Some horses may not show symptoms of the disease but still serve as a source of a new infection for other horses, underlining the need for horse owners to be vigilant, to know the risks and how to prevent the disease.

Within the equine industry, EIA is commonly referred to by the name of the laboratory test, “Coggins.” The Coggins test is named after Dr. Leroy Coggins. Dr. Coggins earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University, where he later developed the first widely available and one of the most reliable tests for this serious disease.  The Coggins test became the official U.S. Department of Agriculture test for EIA in 1973. The Department’s Division of Animal Industry emphasized the importance of compliance with New York’s regulations for EIA testing. 

Dr. David Smith, New York’s state veterinarian said, “Testing for EIA is one of the most important actions horse owners can take to guard against the spread of the disease within the horse community.  We are urging 100 percent compliance for horse owners and that they strictly follow the Department’s regulations for testing.”

NYS Agriculture and Markets Law requires that horse owners adhere to the following regulations:

  • A horse cannot change ownership in New York State absent a negative result of a test taken within the past 12 months.
  • A horse must also have an EIA test either in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year if being transported on a public road in New York.
  • Any horse being imported into New York must have been tested for EIA sometime in the 12 months prior to coming here.

Buyers should always ask for proof of a current EIA test.  Horse show managers and boarding stable managers can also protect their boarders and competitors by requiring proof of a current EIA test for all incoming horsesHorse dealers, auctions, and livestock markets all play critical roles in making sure the required tests happen when ownership changes.  In addition, the Division of Animal Industry advises all livestock owners to isolate new additions to their herds for three weeks before introduction into the general population on their farms to assist in the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases.

EIA is most often spread by biting insects such as horse and deer flies. The virus is also spread through the use of unsterilized needles and syringes, and contaminated equipment used in dentistry, tattooing, surgery, hoof care, and grooming. Disinfection with bleach or other commonly used disinfectants will inactivate the virus.  While the routine use of effective fly repellents is critical, horse owners also need to practice husbandry methods, which will control and reduce the fly population in the horse’s environment, such as cutting back the vegetation where horse and deer flies breed and reducing standing water. Good biosecurity, insect control and routine “Coggins” tests will assist in prevention and the spread of this disease, but the best protection from EIA is to avoid exposure of your horse to blood from another horse.

The Division of Animal Industry actively investigates potential EIA cases and educates horse owners and veterinarians across the state about the symptoms of EIA and steps necessary to prevent its spread.  In the last 12 months, their efforts have led to the diagnosis of 14 positive horses and resulted in quarantines being placed on seven different farms to contain the disease.  

Dr. Linda Mittel, a veterinarian from the NYS Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Cornell University said, “Veterinarians should consider EIA as a possible diagnosis in horses exhibiting weight loss, lethargy, fever, and anemia, especially if such horses have not been EIA tested recently and are from high-risk populations (from auctions, rescued from slaughter pens/channels, are draft, standard bred breeds, or the quarter horse breed). Most veterinarians have not seen cases of EIA and must remember to include EIA on their differential list as more cases are confirmed in New York and in other states.”

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. The Department, through its various divisions and programs, works to promote the agricultural industry and its world-class products, foster agricultural environmental stewardship and safeguard the State’s food supply and agricultural animals to ensure the growth of the industry.

The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, the FreshConnect and new New York State Grown and Certified programs.   Follow the Department on its Facebook page and on Twitter!

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