Swamp fever found in Cornish horse

  • 3 October 2012
  • From the section Cornwall
Dartmoor pony and foal
Image caption Swamp fever can be fatal and can cause pregnant mares to lose their unborn foals

A horse in Cornwall has been put down after tests confirmed it had the rare and highly contagious disease, swamp fever.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the animal tested positive for equine infectious anaemia (EIA).

Twenty other horses at the same stable yard have been quarantined and are being tested for the disease.

It is the first recorded case of swamp fever in the UK this year.

EIA is a viral disease that attacks a horse's immune system and is transmitted through the exchange of blood by biting insects, such as flies and midges.

In can result in death and cause pregnant mares to abort.

Infection trail

Only a few cases have been recorded in the UK over the past 30 years - with the last cases in the South West two years ago.

Defra said it could not say where the horse was stabled, but said restrictions had been placed on the yard as investigations were carried out to establish how the horse contracted EIA.

A spokeswoman said the affected horse was brought over from Belgium five years ago and vets are now tracing its travel movements within the UK.

Defra said EIA posed no danger to humans and there was no evidence that this outbreak presented a risk to the local community.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: "All the necessary precautions to prevent disease spread, including movement restrictions on the sick horse and others at the same stables, were put in place as soon as we became aware of the animal's illness.

"We have also begun a thorough investigation to ascertain whether any other horses may have been exposed to infection.

"Equine Infectious Anaemia is a serious disease but it can be contained by finding infected horses and removing them so that they do not infect others."

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