Vets are “very concerned” after a second case of equine infectious anaemia (EIA) — also known as swamp fever — was confirmed in the south-west of England.
On 19 October a horse in Devon was put down after testing positive for the disease.
Defra confirmed that the case is linked to a horse that was euthanased on 3 October in Cornwall, and one found in Devon in 2010.
All three were imported from Belgium in April 2008 in a group of 18 horses.
At the time of going to press, four more of the shipment had been tested — with two negative and two awaiting results.
EIA affects horses’ immune systems and can cause death.
It is transmitted through blood, for example by biting flies or by using dirty syringes.
There is no cure, so infected horses must be euthanased.
Keith Chandler, president of the British Equestrian Veterinary Association, said: “It’s easy to say all horses should be tested, but it’s not as simple as that.
“We are very concerned by the potential threat to the horse industry.”
H&H veterinary adviser Karen Coumbe added: “Greater care regarding imported animals would make sense.”
Defra said owners should not panic.
“We have robust controls to prevent infected horses being imported,” said deputy chief veterinary officer Alick Simmons. “We have no reason to believe this disease is widespread in the UK.”
This news story was published in 25 October issue of H&H