Control and Prevention

Most prevention programs are initiated with a vaccination program. However, there are no [veterinary] recognized vaccines available for Equine Infectious Anemia Virus. The control and prevention program is therefore based on herd management and surveillance (recognition of EIAV-positive horses and proper quarantining, etc). (1, 5)

Initial efforts to control this disease based on the elimination of clinically ill horses were largely unsuccessful because infected but unapparent carriers perpetuated the disease within the horse population and served as a continuous source of infection for disease-free horses. In 1970, Dr. Leroy Coggins developed a diagnostic test for EIA using an agar-gel immunodiffusion (AGID) reaction.(See Diagnosis) The Coggins' test is consistently reliable in detecting the presence of antibodies regardless of whether the infection is acute, chronic or unapparent.

In 1971, EIAV was made a reportable disease in Canada, and the first EIAV program was introduced in 1972. 

The CFIA has put in place a program to regulate the control of EIAV:

This current program consists of two components. Under the first component, horse owners can voluntarily pay to have their horses tested when they are identified by the industry (required for shows, auctions, etc). Testing is conducted by private veterinary practitioners and EIAV private laboratories accredited by CFIA for that function. The second component of the program is the mandatory response-for which the CFIA is responsible. Each time an EIAV positive horse is discovered, it must be reported to the CFIA and disease control measures are implemented. All EIAV test-positive horses are retested and reactors with clinical signs are ordered destroyed. Owners of horses that are confirmed positive for EIAV without clinical signs must choose whether to either keep the horse in a permanent quarantine or have it destroyed. In the later case, the CFIA orders the horse destroyed and pays compensation. The government's part of the program is delivered at no charge to owners. The CFIA has not imposed the EIA program on horse owners, but has responded to a request from the industry to administer a program that the majority of horse owners support . As there is no effective treatment for EIAV and no vaccine to prevent it, the disease can be successfully controlled by testing and the elimination of reactors including unapparent ones. The Coggins test is an integral part of the CFIA control program. (4)

EIAV does not pose a food safety risk and is not a public health concern, therefore the CFIA's involvement is based on the furtherance of animal health in Canada.

Agriculture Canada has suggestions to help control the spread of EIA:

  1. Subjecting their horse(s) to the Coggins’ test for EIA annually.
  2. Requiring a negative Coggins’ Test certificate to accompany all horses entering boarding stables, fairs, shows and race tracks.
  3. Not allowing their horse(s) to come in close contact with horses of questionable health status.
  4. Controlling biting flies and mosquitoes by developing a fly control procedure around the stable.
  5. Using disposable hypodermic needles to prevent the spread of the virus.
  6. Cleaning and sterilizing all instruments by boiling for 15 minutes prior to reusing.
  7. Avoiding the practice of interchanging equipment such as bridles, saddles, brushes and bandages from one animal to another.
  8. Removing reactors promptly as directed by Agriculture Canada and cleaning and disinfecting the stables and surroundings
    (3)
No specific treatment or vaccine is available. As EIAV-infected equids present the only known source of infection, antibody-positive animals should be kept at a safe distance (~200 m) from other equids. (5)