EXPERTS at the British Horse Society are urging horse owners not to panic after equine infectious anaemia (EIA) was detected in two horses in Wiltshire.

Defra has confirmed that EIA, otherwise known as swamp fever, was found in two horses imported from the continent.

The infected animals, which arrived in a group of ten originating from Romania and Belgium, have been humanely destroyed.

EIA has not been imported into Great Britain since 1976, so the news will be a shock to the horse industry.

However, the BHS is advising horse owners that there is no need to be overly concerned by this news.

EIA is an exotic viral disease that affects horses, mules and donkeys. It is caused by a lentivirus and is spread via biting insects.

Horses are most likely to become infected when travelling abroad to countries, or areas of countries, where the disease is endemic, or from the use of biological products infected with the EIA virus. EIA is often fatal to horses.

If the affected animal recovers, it remains a lifelong carrier of the disease and will be infectious to other animals.

Therefore all infected animals must be humanely destroyed to control the spread of disease.

Lee Hackett, head of welfare at the BHS, said: “Obviously any outbreak of an exotic disease is very worrying and this is news that we did not want to hear.

“However, there is no reason to panic and every reason to hope that these cases will form an isolated incident and be successfully contained.

“Defra has acted incredibly quickly and taken every possible precaution to ensure this outbreak is suppressed.

“Furthermore, EIA is spread by biting insects rather than horse to horse contact, so the recent weather will have improved the chances of containment. Few biting insects will have survived the cold snap meaning that transmission of the disease to other horses is extremely unlikely.”

For more information, call Alison Coleman at the BHS on 01926 707737 or email a.coleman@bhs.

For more information on EIA, visit /foodfarm/farmanimal/ diseases/atoz/eia.