BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – State Veterinarian Michael Neault confirmed Friday that a blood-borne illness dangerous to equine has been detected in South Carolina for the first time since 2014.

Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) is a virus that can be extremely dangerous or fatal to infected animals. It can cause symptoms ranging from fever to severe anemia and sudden death, according to Clemson University.

The first detected case was a quarter horse in Berkeley County. EIA was also detected in two quarter horses in Barnwell County that had contact with the first horse.

There is no cure for EIA, so if the disease does not kill the animal, it must be euthanized or quarantined for the rest of its life. The horse in Berkeley County was euthanized. Options are being discussed with the owners of the horses in Barnwell County.

Neault encouraged horse owners to give their horses annual Coggins tests, which detect EIA antibodies in the blood.

Symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other illnesses, but animals with more sever infections can present with:

  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Jaundice
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Red or purple spots on mucous membranes
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Blood-stained feces

To prevent EIA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests animal owners do the following:

  • Separate symptomatic horses from others and contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Keep the area in and around your barn clean and dry to reduce the insect population.
  • Apply fly sprays and insect repellants as needed.
  • Only use sterile needles and licensed blood products; never reuse needles or syringes.
  • Use a sterile needle each time you puncture a multi-dose medication bottle.
  • Do not share surgical or dental equipment that are contaminated with blood or debris between horses.
  • Allow only licensed veterinarians using blood from confirmed EIA-negative donor horses to perform blood transfusions.
  • Disinfect bits and lip chains between horses.
  • Clean and cover open wounds.
  • Test every horse at least annually.
  • Require proof of a recent negative EIA test for new horses entering the premises or when purchasing a new horse.

Click here to report a case of EIA.