Horse Tests Positive to Exotic Equine Disease

9 June 1999

A brood mare imported from New South Wales, Australia to New Zealand has tested positive to equine infectious anaemia (EIA). The infected mare has been humanely destroyed on the instructions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Barry O'Neil.

EIA is an infectious disease of horses, with no known treatment, caused by a virus spread by biting flies and dirty needles. The disease is not present in New Zealand's horse population.

The horse was one of a six imported from New South Wales on 24 May 1999. The last case of EIA in New South Wales was in 1986. Queensland is the only part of Australia known to have had EIA in recent times.

MAF requires pre-export testing of horses for EIA prior to all imports. The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) conducted the testing, and certified that the brood mare in question was negative.

Tests results for another horse in the same consignment were pending and not available at the time of export. MAF allowed that horse to be imported, but quarantined it on arrival in New Zealand, pending results from Australia. AQIS reported to MAF that one positive and one negative result had been obtained from this horse. MAF tested the horse and found it to be negative for EIA. Following this result the horse was released from the quarantine on 3 June.

In the evening of 3 June 1999, AQIS reported to MAF that a labelling mix up in the Australian laboratory had occurred, and that another horse travelling in the same consignment as the quarantined horse was suspected to be EIA positive. As soon as this information was received, MAF traced the horse - the infected brood mare - and issued a Restricted Place notice on the property where it was grazing in an isolation paddock on 4 June 1999.

All in-contact horses, including those in the original shipment from Australia, were traced and Restricted Place notices issued on their premises. Good management practise of isolating new arrivals has minimised the contact with other horses. All in-contact horses will remain isolated for 45 days and tested twice for the disease. Tests can take up to 45 days to become positive after infection.

As well as isolation, all horses on Restricted Places are being sprayed daily with insecticidal sprays to minimise the risk of transmission. The stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) is a potential carrier of EIA and occurs in association with livestock in New Zealand. However, at this time of year fly numbers are low, further reducing the chances of transmission to other horses.

MAF has notified these events to New Zealand's trading partners and explained the measures taken to control the spread of EIA from the imported horse. The equine industries of New Zealand export horses and semen to many countries, and the report of EIA in an imported horse has the potential to disrupt this trade. Trading partners may require additional testing for EIA.

Media inquiries to:
Dr Barry O'Neil, Chief Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture
and Forestry (04)474 4100
Debbie Gee, Director, Corporate Communications (04) 474 4258
Mirzet Sabirovic, National Manager, Exotic Disease Programmes (025) 470 582



Last Updated: 15 September 2010

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