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Horse owners warned to be vigilant against disease

14 September 2010

Islanders who look after horses are being urged to be vigilant following the discovery of a case of equine infectious anaemia in the south of England.

Symptoms and spread of the disease

The disease, sometimes called swamp fever, was confirmed in Devon on Saturday 11 September 2010. It is caused by a virus and is spread by biting insects. The disease affects horses, donkeys and mules - it does not affect humans. The symptoms of equine infectious anaemia are:

  • intermittent fever
  • anaemia
  • emaciation

Recent cases and limiting infection

The disease is present in low levels in some European countries. 2 cases have been identified in horses imported into the UK this year, most recently in Northumberland on 7 September. The Devon case affects a horse which has been in England for 2 years and investigations are being carried out to identify both the source of infection and possible spread.

When the disease is confirmed, the only course of action is to humanely destroy the infected horse. Animals are infected for life and humane destruction prevents both a welfare problem for the affected animal and a source of infection for other horses.

The Director for Environment, Willie Peggie, said “These outbreaks are a reminder to everyone who owns or looks after horses to be vigilant, and if they are concerned, consult their own vet who will report any suspicion of this disease to the States Veterinary Officer at the Environment Department.”

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