Equine Piroplasmosis Confirmed in Ireland

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by Fran Jurga | 9 September 2009 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com


This statement has been published by the Irish government after a highly unusual disease situation was discovered on a Thoroughbred stud farm there:

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The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has today confirmed the occurrence of Equine Piroplasmosis (EP) in a number of Thoroughbred horses in an equine facility in county Meath.

Piroplasmosis is a tick-borne protozoan disease of horses, mules, donkeys and zebra. It is caused by blood parasites - Theleria equi and Babesia caballi and gives rise to anaemia and jaundice in affected animals. The disease is not readily contagious and has no Zoonotic implications and therefore no public health concerns arise.

A notifiable disease in Ireland since July 2009, it has not been officially reported in this country before although it is understood that a previous incursion did take place. The disease is present in Mediterranean countries but is not present in the US, Canada, the UK or Australia.

The facility in question has been served with a movement restriction notice and epidemiological investigations are underway to establish the origin of the disease and the extent of the spread, if any, to other locations.

The Department has been in contact with industry representatives who have been informed of the situation. A meeting with industry representatives has been arranged to discuss the implications for animal movement and the measures appropriate to address the threat posed by the disease.

(end of statement)

Note: the statement contains an error. EP has been found in the United States, this year in Missouri and last year in Florida. EP is a highly-feared disease and is often the reason why horses from certain Mediterranean countries cannot be directly imported into other countries. EP is also a deciding factor is where major competitions are held, since many people fear that an outbreak would possibly strand horses in a country for quarantine reasons, or infect them directly.

EP in Ireland is particularly chilling because the island nation is a huge exporter of horses. Flat and jump racing horses from Ireland routinely get on ferries and travel to England, Scotland or even France to race, especially during the winter months, and foxhunting in Ireland is a tourist season in and of itself. The most high-profile Thoroughbred trainer in Europe, Aidan O'Brien, is headquartered at Ballydoyle near Tipperary and travels from there to race all over the world.

As the world shrinks, equine diseases are becoming global, not local. EP in Ireland? A sign of the times, and not a good one.