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VIDEO - Equine Infectious Anaemia, an Italian story

  • Veterinary

With this video Italian Horse Protection Association wants to denounce the general ignorance the Italian authorities show every day in the regards of Equine Infectious Anaemia, the psychological terrorism created by such ignorance, and the useless waste of resources caused by the huge national control plan. This waste carries with it the suffering of a social animal forced to live isolated and separated by its human friend or the horror of the “death journeys” toward the slaughterhouse.

English subtitled video

Original version

The Equine Infectious Anaemia is a little-researched disease; in fact, up to a few years ago, all the horses found positive to the testing were immediately slaughtered.

The disease can be transmitted by blood-sucking insects or due to the use of infected veterinary tools (the only ascertain event of this kind in Italy happened in 2006, due to the use of contaminated blood products).

The tests currently used to determine the positivity to the disease (ELISA and AGID aka Coggins), reveal only the occurred contact between the animal’s immune system and the virus. According to the Italian National Veterinary Association, “positive horses present a viraemia level generally insufficient for the transmission of the disease via blood-sucking insects”( ANMVI, 25 novembre 2009), thus positive specimens are not, as general rule, contagious. Really sick animals are different matter.

In Italy there is an ongoing control plan about EIA that can only be called huge. Despite being downsized by the last ordinance on this subject, it led to the testing of more than 200.000 horses, mules and hinnies in 2009, with an enormous use of resources. About 300 animals were found positive (source, IZSLT, 2009). By a statistical point of view, if we remove the outliers (statically abnormal results), we have a percentage of positivity well below 1%. More, it is prudently estimated the 90% of the positive animals will never develop the disease and thus will never be a source of contagion. Thus we can conclude that the infection’s spreading potential is almost nil. (For more info about the criteria used to remove the outliers, check our 28th January 2011 article ).

All of this meant that every year hundreds of equines have been torn away from their humans companions to be uselessly isolated (if not downright sent to slaughter), without any benefit for the country’s livestock heritage; it just caused pain and fuelled Middle Age-like fears based on ignorance.

Just for comparison, the calculated percentage of Leishmania-positive dogs is 2600% higher than the percentage of EIA-positive horses. Every dog caretaker in Italy with a bit of common sense takes the necessary precautions to prevent the diffusion of Leishmania, but no one would ever even think to put down or isolate all the positive dogs. Yet, Leishmania-positive dogs, contrary to Equine Infectious Anaemia-positive horses, are contagious, sometimes even toward humans.

Italian Horse Protection asks the Health Ministry to start a campaign of education for the local authorities, and to put an end to the National Control Plan, redirecting the thus-saved resources toward the study of the disease and the research of cures for the (few) really sick animals.

See also our article published on 2011, Jan. 28th.