...my treasures do not sparkle they clink,
they shine in the sun and neigh in the night...



Equine Infectious Anaemia, proceedings of the conference held on 1 October, Rome.


(11th October 2012)

On 1st October an important international conference was held in Rome, organised by the Ministry of Health and the Istituto Zooprofilattico (IZS) of Lazio and Tuscany, currently the national centre of reference for this disease.

Present at the conference (training credits issued) were approximately 250 veterinary surgeons from 8 different countries. Among the speakers were several world experts in this disease, including Dr Issel and Dr Cook of the Gluck Equine Veterinary Centre of the University of Kentucky (USA).

The presented data, and updated information regarding the transmission of this disease, fully support what IHP has been that affirming for a long time regarding the minimal risk of epidemic presented by EIA and in particular by healthy horses carrying the virus.

According to the IZS, over the test period 2007-2011, only 1.479 horses were found positive, out of the 1.080.043 animals examined. This represent only the 0,14%. The proportion of positive results among mules was higher, with 736 positive results out of 12.000 subjects tested. Only 35 cases were recorded in donkeys.

Percentages are, therefore, extremely low, in particular with regard to horses and donkeys. But the information which most stands out is that in all the years of studies at the infectious diseases Centre of Reference for Equine Infectious Anaemia, is that there have been no documented cases of the full-blown disease itself; according to the report of Dr Marcello Sala, we are talking only of horses with a positive antibody result, in whom the presence of the virus is “generally insufficient to infect other equines” (as was stated by ANMVI, the Italian Veterinarian National Association, in previous bulletins).

And this is not all: a very interesting clarification emerged during the conference regarding the manner of infection, in that the true risk lies in a failure to properly sterilise veterinary instruments such as syringes, needles and other surgical equipment.

According to Dr Issel, the proposition of contagion via insects remains basically a matter of theory: a horsefly which, for example, sucks blood from an EIA-positive, horse will conserve in its oral apparatus such an infinitesimal amount of that blood as to be insufficient to infect a healthy animal (assuming the horsefly moves from one horse to another). In any case, in the horsefly’s ‘mouth’ the virus dies within an extremely short time, both facts rendering infection between horses via insect carriers highly improbable.

Thus it is perhaps more accurate and more sensible to say that the real risk of infection is not via insects but rather human error: the tiny amount of fresh blood remaining in a hypodermic needle, as opposed to that remaining in the mouth of a horsefly, is much more likely to infect another horse.

Drawing on all these facts and figures we underline and increase the demand that we have been lobbying for some time: given that the percentage of EIA-positive (and showing no symptoms of disease) is objectively speaking low; given that no cases of the actual disease occurred in the time-frame of the test; given that the real source of danger of infection comes from human carelessness or error, does it make any sense to maintain the current very costly national control programme? Why should examination not be limited to horses travelling to competitions, or any event which falls into the category of ‘concentration of equines in one place’? Or, better yet, why not turn the current situation on its head and make the test obligatory for all equines sent for slaughter, which would yield far more precise statistical and geographical data, as well as reducing costs? And finally, why not abolish the legal confiscation of EIA-positive horses which never travel, allowing their owners to keep both positive and negative horses in a manner which is properly conducive to equine wellbeing?

We will present these questions to the Ministry of Health, saying that we are willing to meet to discuss the issues.