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New equine piroplasmosis requirements for racehorses to take effect this month

September 22, 2010

The Louisiana State Racing Commission passed new rules Aug. 30 requiring all horses entering Louisiana racetracks or approved training facilities to possess a negative equine piroplasmosis (EP) test, Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said.
The new rules go into effect Sept. 26, 2010.
In 2009, an EP outbreak occurred at a Texas quarter horse ranch that provides brood stock nationally and internationally and raised concerns about the risk to Louisiana horses. Additional, but unassociated positive cases have been discovered among racing quarter horses in several states.
“Many Louisiana veterinarians are already testing horses in anticipation of the new rule,” Strain said. “The surveillance detected a few positive equine piroplasmosis cases in the state. EP is considered to be a foreign animal disease and LDAF will respond appropriately to positive cases that are disclosed.”
The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, housed within LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine located in Baton Rouge, recently received approval to run EP tests. The lab is the only Louisiana lab approved to run the tests.
EP is a tick-borne disease caused by the red blood cell parasites Babesia caballi and Theileria equi. Ticks ingest blood from infected equines and then bite uninfected horses, spreading the disease through the blood feeding process.
Ticks carrying the parasites can be moved from one place to another via hay, bedding and feed as well as animal to animal.
The disease may also be spread by the improper use of contaminated needles and other skin-penetrating instruments. Pregnant mares can pass the infection to foals in the uterus.
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. However, horses may also carry the parasite and show no symptoms. Equines that survive the acute infection phase may carry the parasites for an undetermined period in their bloodstreams.
EP Info Sheet