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A single case of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) or “swamp fever” on premises in Northern Ireland has been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

The virus, which does not affect humans, was found in a foal in Co Londonderry last Friday. As a result the animal has been put down and movement restrictions will remain on the premises for at least 90 days. Although there have been cases of EIA in the Republic of Ireland over the last two months, this is the first EIA case that has been identified in the UK.

Swamp fever, so called because it often occurs in low-lying swamp areas, causes intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and death in horses. It can be transmitted by mechanical transfer of blood by biting insects or infected needles.

“We will continue to update the industry and private veterinary practitioners should there be any further developments and as circumstances require,” said Debby Reynolds Chief Veterinary Officer for the UK.

Following the detection of EIA in the Republic of Ireland in June, DARD identified horses in Northern Ireland that may have had contact with horses from the Republic of Ireland. All of these horses were placed under movement restriction underwent regular blood testing for EIA. It was as a result of the testing of the in-contact horses that the infected foal was discovered.

Authorities have confirmed that no horses have moved off the infected premises recently and those that may have had any contact with the confirmed case are being traced and will be subjected to tests and movement restrictions. It is thought the infected foal may have had contact with horses from south of the border.

“The ‘how?’ is being looked out at the moment,” explained a spokesperson from the DARD, “but our vets are confident that the source has been identified and the proper procedures are in place. It is good news that the virus hasn’t moved on but it must be carefully monitored.”

DEFRA advises horse owners across Britain to be on the alert for abnormal behaviour or illness in their horses and if EIA is suspected, to report it to their local Divisional Veterinary Officer.

Further information on EIA can be found on the DARD website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/animal-health/animal-diseases/equine-infectious-anaemia.htm.