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Equine piroplasmosis found in Texas horses

October 26, 2009

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., is advising Louisiana horse owners and veterinarians to carefully monitor equines for signs of equine piroplasmosis (EP), a tick-borne disease caused by microscopic parasites of the red bloods cells.
Texas animal health officials said more than 32 horses at a ranch in Kleberg Country, Texas, tested positive in the first round of testing for EP on October 13, 2009. The ranch is located just south of Corpus Christi.
Texas authorities quarantined the ranch after a 7-year-old quarter horse mare became ill and tested positive for EP on Oct. 12, Strain said.
All of the horses have been stabled at the ranch for years.
After the initial round of testing, 97 more horses were tested with 69 showing positive for the disease. Testing of horses on the ranch for the disease is continuing, but thus far a total of 101 EP positive horses have been disclosed.
EP is a tick-borne disease caused by the parasites Babesia caballi and Theileria equi. Ticks ingest blood from infected equines and then bite uninfected equines, spreading the disease through the blood feeding process.
Ticks carrying the parasites can be moved from one place to another via hay, bedding, feed and animal to animal.
The disease may also be passed from pregnant mares to foals in the uterus and by contaminated needles and other skin-penetrating instruments.
EP symptoms may become apparent seven to 22 days after infection. Clinical symptoms include weakness, loss of appetite, fever, anemia, jaundiced mucous membranes, swollen abdomen and labored breathing. Horses that survive the acute infection phase may carry the parasites for an undetermined period of time in their bloodstreams.
Since the Kleberg County ranch has distributed brood stock nationally and internationally some horses originating from that ranch may now be in Louisiana, Strain said. Those horses will have to be tested to be certain that they are not carrying the disease.
Strain advised horse owners to continue practicing good biosecurity measures and contact their local veterinarians if any of their horses originated from that ranch or exhibit any of clinical signs consistent with those of EP.
Strain recommended that owners who have questions about the disease should call their local veterinarian.
More information on equine piroplasmosis may be found at