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What are Coggins tests for, more on EIA...
What are Coggins tests for, more on EIA...


Last week we discussed the tests we use for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).  These tests are:

The “Coggins tests,” which takes 24 hours in the lab plus mailing time.
The quick test which takes little over an hour. We perform the quick test in our clinic for the convenience of those clients who need their test results quickly.

This week we will discuss why we test for EIA.  These reasons include characteristics of the disease, as well as the desire to eliminate EIA from the United States.

The virus that causes EIA has not cooperated in the production of a vaccine.  There is no vaccine available.  Once a horse contracts the virus, there is no effective treatment that will prevent the signs.  The method of spreading from one horse to another is through the exchange of blood.  This may be from the use of common needles and uncleaned surgical equipment.  It may also be from injuries such as the small tears of the genital track during breeding, or cuts from interference by the tail hairs.  The most common source of infection is the horse fly, simply because of the large amount of blood they carry.  These characteristics are shared with the virus that causes AIDS, so a great deal of research money has been used to study the EIA virus.

Without the possibility of treatment or prevention, the only method of controlling EIA is through  testing and quarantining.  Each time a horse that tests positive is found and removed from horse society, another potential source of the virus is removed.  When a state makes its test requirements stricter, more horses will be tested.  Many of these horses have not previously had any reason to be tested.  As a result, the number of positive tests will increase.  This is the situation with Arkansas.  Arkansas requires every horse to be tested for EIA each year.  As a result of this rather recent change in the law, their percentage of positive tests is the second highest in the US.  They are second only to Louisiana, and have 10 times as many positives as Missouri.

Missouri requires each horse coming into the state to have a negative test taken within the last year.  Within the state, horses attending organized activities or staying with other horses must have proof of a negative test taken within the last year.  Foals become eligible for testing once they leave mother’s side.  Each organization and establishment is held responsible for seeing that all horses on its grounds have a negative test.  They may also shorten the testing period for their event.

The EIA test requirements are effective in reducing the number of cases of EIA.  In the United States 0.06 % of the horses tested are positive.  Missouri had eighteen positives from the 78,622 horses tested last year.  Arkansas had 148 positives from 67,318 horses tested.  Oklahoma and Mississippi were right behind Arkansas.  As the laws become more strict, the number of positive cases increase for a short time until the horses with EIA are removed from the horse population.  Eventually, this disease will be eliminated from the United States and no more testing will be required.

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