Kentucky Racetracks Implementing Equine Piroplasmosis Testing January 1

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Say "equine piroplasmosis" to a horse owner and trainer and what response will you get back? "That's a warm weather disease, right?" "Ticks." "Isn't it from South America or the Caribbean or Mexico or someplace like that?" "It's usually in the Southwest, right?" "That disease affects Spanish-type horses, and Quarter horses, I think?"

Welcome to five of the most common preconceptions about the disease known as equine piroplasmosis (EP). And they're all incorrect.

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EP is now found in almost half the states in the United States and in multiple breeds. It has spread as far north as Minnesota and Massachusetts. And state governments are starting to implement regulations that require proof of testing, similar to Coggins tests for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).

The news this week is that the state of Kentucky will now require evidence of negative EP status for all horses entering racetracks in that state.

In a letter to Robert M Beck Jr, Chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, on December 2, Kentucky State Equine Programs Manager Rusty Ford gave notice that equine piroplasmosis has become a cause of concern.

"Since October of 2009 there have been no fewer than 550 horses throughout the United States found to be infected with the causative protozoan (predominantly T. equi but some B. caballi) that results in equine piroplasmosis being contracted," Ford wrote in his memo. "Though the vast majority of cases have been discovered in Quarter horses, there is growing evidence the disease is present in the Thoroughbred racing population as well. Because of limited testing having been conducted in this class of animal, the established prevalence continues to be an unknown."

According to Ford, Kentucky will join rank with Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (and perhaps other states) in requiring EP testing for incoming horses, whether they plan to race or not.

Here's the language as stated in Ford's memo:

"Based on the above information, and under the authority found in KRS257.030, the Kentucky State Veterinarians Office is directing that until further notice all equine animals (racing and non- racing) seeking entry onto a race track in Kentucky must be accompanied with a certificate demonstrating the horse(s) was tested for piroplasmosis by a C-ELISA assay for both T. equi and B. caballi and reported to be negative.

"We are stating that the testing should begin immediately and that effective January 1, 2011, no horse shall be allowed entry onto a Kentucky race track without verification that the required testing has been completed. The testing shall be performed and the results reported by a laboratory certified and approved by the USDA to conduct the testing and shall be completed on a blood sample collected from the horse during the 12 month period preceding the animal's entry onto the grounds.

"The testing is not a requirement for racing, but simply qualifying the horse for access to the track. This testing is in addition to the established health requirements that include each horse entering a Kentucky track demonstrate that they have tested negative for equine infectious anemia, been vaccinated against equine herpes virus type 1 and accompanied with a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection stating the animals to be free of disease and known exposure to a communicable disease."

The University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington and Murray State University's Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville now offer Equine Piroplasmosis testing.

by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
Be friends withFran Jurga on Facebook.com

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