More cases of swamp fever detected in the Northwest

By Gaven Crites

Federal regulators confirmed at least 10 new cases of equine infectious anemia (EIA) in the Meadow Lake area. The animals were found on two different premises and represent the only positive cases confirmed in the province for  February.
Commonly known as swamp fever, EIA is a viral disease that attacks the immune system of horses, donkeys and mules and is potentially fatal and easily transferable, typically by biting flies.
Jason Glawson, president of the North West Saskatchewan Pony Chuckwagon and Chariot Association (NWSPCCA), said the horse community knows there’s a problem and the association is making a point of asking owners to test their animals.
“It’s common courtesy,” Glawson said. “If you’re going to take your animal into different districts, (get them tested) for your own peace of mind, everyone else’s and the horse’s safety.”
All test results go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) which then notifies owners of any positive results and orders additional testing for any equines that have come in contact with the affected animal in the last 30 days. A positive test result means the animal is quarantined and then (in most cases) euthanized.
The 45-day quarantine period is a huge disruption for those in the rodeo or racing circuit.
“There are so many horses moved around all year long, the disease can spread really fast,” Glawson said.
Alex McIsaac, CFIA program specialist for disease control, said horses traveling in the circuit have a good chance of contracting the disease.
“All of a sudden the team is not able to go anywhere until it gets all its testing done,” McIsaac said. “As for mandatory testing, it will always be voluntary as far as the CFIA is concerned. However, if you’re a racing association, you can say testing is mandatory to participate in our racing circuit. They can mandate mandatory testing.”
Glawson points to the Eastern Professional Chariot and Chuckwagon Association as an example of where mandatory testing decimated the racing ranks as shows went from 70 wagons to about 20.
“If you make testing mandatory in the Northwest and nobody else does, what will happen is people that don’t test will go someplace else,” he said. “It will really hurt the club. I’ve been trying to get a universal meeting for the past two years to talk to the other presidents so we can nip this in the bud.”
He added a lot of frontline work is being done now with respect to testing in anticipation of the upcoming season.
“Nobody wants to spend that extra money, but a lot of us do,” he said. “It’s to any horse owner that travels with their horse to take the initiative and test.”

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