Texas Officials Begin Testing Horses for Equine Piroplasmosis

State impacted by summer vesicular stomatitis adds another equine disease offensive
tjr horse owner alert flk cc l.schonk horse head profile on black x640 copy

If it's not the flies, it's the ticks.

Horses in Texas are up against another disease threat. After a busy summer of fly-transmitted vesicular stomatitis cases in several Texas counties, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) announced yesterday that it is planning to test horses, mules and other equids for tick-borne Equine Piroplasmosis. TAHC has also scheduled a public meeting to educate the public about the disease and potential risks to animals.

This week TAHC designated Brooks County as a high risk county for exposure to Equine Piroplasmosis ("Piroplasmosis" or "Piro") and will begin testing horses, donkeys, mules, ponies and zebras there on Friday, November 14, 2014. In 2013, 28 horses in counties adjacent to Brooks County tested positive for the disease.

An informational public meeting will be held on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the Brooks County Courthouse Annex in Falfurrias, Texas. Brooks County equine owners and veterinarians are encouraged to attend the public meeting. TAHC veterinarians will provide key information regarding the disease and testing.

What's Equine Piroplasmosis?

Equine Piroplasmosis is a blood-borne protozoal disease that affects all equine. Piroplasmosis can be transmitted from a positive equine to a negative equine by blood transfer from dirty instruments or insect carriers, such as ticks. The disease is not transmissible to humans.

 The following brief PowerPoint from Texas A&M University's FAZD Center explains the basics of Equine Piroplasmosis, courtesy of AgriLife News-Texas AgriLife Extension Service/Texas AgriLife Research.

About the warning areas

TAHC's announcement stated that high risk areas were established for Kleberg and Kenedy counties in 2013, where subsequent testing of resident equine found 28 animals tested positive and were diagnosed with Piroplasmosis. A number of tick species are capable of transmitting the disease and at least one species, Amblyomma cajennense, is located in Brooks County. Therefore Brooks County, having the disease vector and being adjacent to Kleberg and Kenedy counties, is considered to be at high risk for Piroplasmosis and designated for testing.

"Equine Piroplasmosis is considered a foreign animal disease in the U.S., however, new cases continue to be discovered in South Texas," Dr. Dee Ellis, State Veterinarian, said. "The TAHC is asking for the support of equine owners and veterinarians to make this testing effort a success and help assure the health of the equine population."

Brooks County equine owners and veterinary practitioners may contact the TAHC Region 5 Office at 1-361-358-3234 with questions or to schedule testing.

For more information on Piroplasmosis visit www.tahc.state.tx.us/animal_health/equine/piro.html .

Header photo courtesy of L. Schonk.