Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) has been detected in a horse in Northumberland following importation from the Netherlands, Defra confirmed today (Tuesday).

The premises is currently under restriction and the infected horse will be humanely destroyed.

The other horses on the premises are currently being tested.

The horse arrived in a group of six horses from the Netherlands and all were tested for EIA as part of routine post-import testing.

The other five horses have tested negative.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “This shows the success of our post import testing regime.

“These were apparently healthy horses carrying a notifiable disease that we are keen to keep out of Great Britain. After considering the risk I have decided to take appropriate action and humanely destroy this horse.”

Two horses in Wiltshire were found to have the infection in January.

Equine charity World Horse Welfare has warned horse owners to be on the look out for the viral infection, which causes intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and death.

It can be transmitted by the exchange of blood by biting insects and occurs typically in low-lying swampy areas.

Chief executive for the charity Roly Owers said: “Today’s news is extremely concerning and demonstrates the changing environment we’re living in.

“This is a real warning to us that we’re sailing far too close to the wind. The concerning question is where these horses came from given that Holland to date has not reported a case of EIA.

“With more and more horses moving across Europe, including the significant trade in low value animals, not just slaughter animals, we’re facing an increasing threat from the spread of disease.”

EIA is endemic in both Romania and Italy; Romania being one of the largest exporters and Italy being the largest importer of horses for slaughter in Europe.

In spite of the legal requirement for health certification before exporting horses from Romania, which were tightened in June 2010, there continues to be cases of EIA across Europe.

Three horses with EIA were found in Germany last week and the government there thinks they were imported illegally from Romania.

“World Horse Welfare advises owners to undertake rigorous checks when buying a horse from abroad and is discouraging anyone from importing Romanian horses,” said Mr Owers.

“Owners should also ensure that any horse they buy or that comes on to their yard has a passport, is checked for a microchip and that isolation and biosecurity measures are strictly followed for any new entry onto the yard.”