Ireland is an island nation, and a horsey place it is. It is the breeding ground and nursery for much of the Europe's Thoroughbred and National Hunt (jump racing) stock and the source of many of the world's top show jumpers ("Irish Sport Horses") and lovely Connemara ponies, one of the world's most versatile breeds. And if you were looking for a foxhunter, wouldn't you go to Ireland?
If you can't find a horse to buy in Ireland, something's wrong. At least you'd have a good time looking.
Now suppose you found the horse of your dreams there and you find out its farm is quarantined, or that your government has issued a ban on Irish imported horses.
And if you live in Ireland and want to sell a horse overseas, you find that buyers are not coming to the sales. Not answering your ads. And if they make an offer, it's lowball. "Because of the scare, who knows?" the buyer shrugs. Can you wait til after "the scare?" Just how long might it last...
Those are just a few scenarios that played out in Ireland this winter. In Ireland, an equine disease outbreak is News. Yes, with a capital N.
But last week, the Irish Department of Agriculture & Food said that this fall's outbreak of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), sometimes called Swamp Fever, is over. Here are a few out-takes from the official document, which you can read online at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/index.jsp?file=animal_health/EIA/EIA.xml
"The Department of Agriculture & Food has confirmed that it is now 101 days since the last of twenty-eight cases of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) was confirmed on 10 December 2006. Given the passage of more than ninety days since the last case was confirmed, all remaining ninety-day tests have been done and all results are negative for EIA. Accordingly, all remaining premises restrictions are being lifted and none remain in place.
"In all, the Department confirmed twenty-eight cases of EIA between 15 June and 10 December. Most of the cases were concentrated, with some exceptions, in the Dublin/Meath/Kildare area. All but three of the cases were in thoroughbred horses.
"Since the first cases were confirmed, almost 57,000 blood samples have been tested at the Irish Equine Centre (IEC) and the Department's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL). During the month of January alone, the IEC tested over 14,000 samples, most of which were taken as a result of the EIA recommendation of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (ITBA) in their Codes of Practice for 2007.
"The Department has publicly endorsed the ITBA recommendation and has written to the over 50 studmasters throughout the country who have themselves committed publicly to the strict compliance with the ITBA recommendation, commending them for the manner in which they so publicly signed-up to the strict implementation of the ITBA recommendation and acknowledging their contribution to the combined efforts of the Department and the industry to contain and eradicate EIA from Ireland. The Department continues to support the ITBA recommendation that all mares to be covered should have a negative EIA test within 28 days of transport to studs or foaling units.
"At one time or another movement restrictions were placed on 53 separate premises and the Department had imposed movement restrictions on over 1200 individual horses, the majority of them on their home premises where their owners were advised by the Department to ensure that they are isolated from contact with other horses.
"The Department is continuing to progress its epidemiological investigation into the circumstances in which the disease was first introduced into the country, as part of which officials from the Department have travelled overseas to consult with international colleagues...It is not possible, at this stage, to say when the investigation will be concluded, other than to say that it remains the Department's position that, if sufficient evidence is gathered to support a prosecution, the Department will seek to have the case prosecuted through the Courts. Because of the nature of the investigation, the Department is not in a position to comment any further on its progress at this stage.
"In view of the veterinary linkages associated with a number of the cases, the Department has reiterated its advice, consistently given since the outbreak began, that veterinary practitioners should, at all times, observe the highest standards of hygiene and should ensure that, in all circumstances, contaminated veterinary instruments are either appropriately disposed of or thoroughly sterilised (autoclaved) before reuse."
(Blogger's note: tainted vaccine was identified as the source of the outbreak.)