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Animal Disease Situation

Equine Infectious Anemia in Germany

Information on the current animal disease situation can be found in the respective latest issue of the monthly newsletter Radar Bulletin (in German language).

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a systemic virus infection which affects horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and zebras. The disease represents no danger for humans. The virus is mainly transmitted by large blood-sucking insects, such as horseflies and stable flies. Transmission of the disease is also possible through direct contact between horses (blood, small wounds) and iatrogenically (by medical treatment, in particular when one needle/syringe is used for several animals). This remediless infectious disease of equids mainly occurs in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia as well as in Southern and Eastern Europe. Given the climatic conditions in Germany no epidemic spread is observed; the disease occurs sporadically.

More information on EIA can be found in the respective FLI information (download right column of this webpage).

Equine Infectious Anemia in polo horses

Since the end of June, the notifiable animal disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) has been detected in Germany in 11 polo horses from 7 holdings. Pursuant to the regulation for protection from EIA, horses which tested positive for the disease were culled. As prescribed by law the responsible local veterinary authorities initiated the ban and investigation of all affected holdings and contact holdings. Currently the federal states Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Bavaria are affected. The Netherlands have also reported one case in a polo horse. Background of and possible associations between the currently increased case numbers in polo horses are being investigated.

EIA is distributed worldwide and occurs in increased numbers in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. In Germany, the virus disease is detected sporadically in horses, i.e. individual outbreaks occur repeatedly. In the last few years, most cases have been associated with imported horses. Horses with acute infection can show fever, apathy, as well as petechiae particularly on the underside of the tongue, mucous membranes and lid conjunctiva.

Infected animals remain life-long carriers and are potential sources of infection. Despite of the name “anemia” given to this disease in many cases no anemia, which is caused by immunopathological lysis of red blood cells, is observed. In 30 to 90 percent of cases no visible symptoms of disease occur, the animals remain healthy appearing virus carriers.

The virus is mainly transmitted by large blood-sucking insects, such as horseflies and stable flies. Given the climatic conditions in Germany no epidemic spread is observed. Transmission of the disease is also possible through direct contact between horses (blood, small wounds) and iatrogenically (by medical treatment, in particular when one needle/syringe is used for several animals).

Last updated: January 2011

In 2010, 27 cases of Equine Infectious Anemia were diagnosed in Germany – the so far highest number. Except for one donkey, all affected animals were horses. Horses imported from Romania played an important role. It is assumed that the animals were imported to Germany without the required health certificates and test results. Equine Infectious Anemia is a notifiable animal disease.

The disease is a virus infection of horses and other equids (e.g. donkeys, mules and zebras), which can become manifest as an acute or chronic disease of short or prolonged duration with febrile episodes and can have a fatal outcome. However in 30 to 90 % of cases the disease remains asymptomatic; these animals which appear healthy but carry the virus are called asymptomatic carriers.

The virus is mainly transmitted by blood-sucking insects, rarely also by direct contact between the animals. The incubation period is approx. two to six weeks. The affected animals must be culled, as they remain life-long carriers. No treatment or vaccination is available. The disease represents no danger for humans.

The disease mainly occurs in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia as well as in Southern and Eastern Europe. Romania is considered to be an endemic area for Equine Infectious Anemia. In Northern and Central European countries, the disease occurs only sporadically. 

Animals with unclear symptoms (therapy-resistant febrile episodes) should be presented to a veterinarian without delay. In suspect cases, the veterinary authorities must be informed. It is urgently recommended to refrain from purchasing horses of unclear or suspect origin.