South Carolina officials say a mule located in Aiken County tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), which is caused by a virus related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the first case of EIA seen in the state in more than a decade, according to health officials.
The 16-year-old mule did not show signs of the viral disease that attacks the horse’s immune system, but it has been euthanized. State officials continue their investigation to determine if any other horses may have been exposed.
The often fatal disease affects horses, donkeys, and mules. No other animals or humans can contract the virus. The blood borne illness is typically transmitted by biting insects, but also can be transmitted from horse to horse through infected needles. There is no cure or vaccine to prevent EIA.
Symptoms include fever, depression, weight loss, swelling and anemia.
A Coggins test is utilized to determine the presence of EIA.
“Many horses in South Carolina have never been tested for EIA and these horses are our highest-risk group for undetected EIA infection,” said Adam Eichelberger, Director of Animal Health Programs in the State Veterinarian’s Office. “This new diagnosis serves as a wake-up call for us and should remind horse owners of the importance of continuing to test for the disease, even in horses that appear perfectly healthy.”
There are no treatment options for infected horses so the United States Department of Agriculture requires euthanasia or strict lifelong quarantine for horses testing positive for EIA. Studies show that a 200 yard separation between an isolated positive EIA and other horses prevents transmission of the disease.
By law, any horse traveling to an event or entering the state of South Carolina must have a negative Coggins less than a year old. Any stable or location that has two or more horses owned by two or more individuals must follow the same requirement, even if the horses aren’t being moved.