Deadly swamp fever found in Cornwall
A horse in the Westcountry has tested positive for the deadly "swamp fever" virus, the Western Morning News can reveal.
The virus, which is spread by flies and midges, poses no danger to people but can be fatal for horses and donkeys.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed yesterday that a case of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) has been detected in a horse at an undisclosed address in Mid Cornwall.
The affected horse has been humanely destroyed.
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Defra's 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."
Test results from the other horses are expected "within the next couple of days".
Mr Gibbens added: "EIA is a serious disease but it can be contained by finding infected horses and removing them so that they do not infect others. This country has a robust record of disease prevention and management. All reports of suspected notifiable disease are taken exceptionally seriously and are investigated immediately."
EIA is harmless to humans but is fatal in horses, mules and donkeys and is most commonly spread by biting insects such as horse flies. Fortunately, at this time of year horse flies are no longer active, the issue is more with indoor biting flies. It occurs typically in low-lying swampy areas and causes intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and death.
Infected animals can carry the virus for life and pose a permanent risk to others.
A Defra spokesman confirmed that the disease does not spread quickly and is unlikely to spread widely from infected horses as the flies that transmit the disease "were very unlikely to fly further than 200 metres".
This is the fourth case of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) reported in the UK for 30 years. Three of these occurred in 2010 including a case in Highampton, Devon, where a horse had to be destroyed. All are thought to have occurred in horses that have come from Romania.