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Ireland Lifts Restrictions Imposed By EIA Outbreak

Irelandís Department of Agriculture & Food has confirmed that it is now 101 days since the last of twenty-eight cases of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) was confirmed on December 10, 2006. Given the passage of more than ninety days since the last case was confirmed, all remaining ninety-day tests have been done and all results are negative for EIA. Accordingly, all remaining premises restrictions are being lifted and none remain in place.

In all, the Department confirmed twenty-eight cases of EIA between June 15 and December 10, 2006. Most of the cases were concentrated, with some exceptions, in the Dublin/Meath/Kildare area. All but three of the cases were in thoroughbred horses.

Since the first cases were confirmed, almost 57,000 blood samples have been tested at the Irish Equine Centre (IEC) and the Department's Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL). During the month of January alone, the IEC tested over 14,000 samples, most of which were taken as a result of the EIA recommendation of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (ITBA) in their Codes of Practice for 2007.

The Department has publicly endorsed the ITBA recommendation and has written to the over 50 stud masters throughout the country who have themselves committed publicly to the strict compliance with the ITBA recommendation, commending them for the manner in which they so publicly signed-up to the strict implementation of the ITBA recommendation and acknowledging their contribution to the combined efforts of the Department and the industry to contain and eradicate EIA from Ireland. The Department continues to support the ITBA recommendation that all mares to be covered should have a negative EIA test within 28 days of transport to studs or foaling units.

At one time or another movement restrictions were placed on 53 separate premises and the Department had imposed movement restrictions on over 1200 individual horses, the majority of them on their home premises where their owners were advised by the Department to ensure that they are isolated from contact with other horses.

A thorough investigation has been carried out in relation to all of the cases and, at this stage, the Department is satisfied, based on the significant epidemiological data gathered, that all of the cases can now be associated back to events related directly or indirectly to the initial outbreak.

The Department is continuing to progress its epidemiological investigation into the circumstances in which the disease was first introduced into the country, as part of which officials from the Department have traveled overseas to consult with international colleagues. This investigation is a comprehensive one and an extensive amount of information has been gathered. This information is currently being assessed. It is not possible, at this stage, to say when the investigation will be concluded, other than to say that it remains the Department's position that, if sufficient evidence is gathered to support a prosecution, the Department will seek to have the case prosecuted through the Courts. Because of the nature of the investigation, the Department is not in a position to comment any further on its progress at this stage.

In view of the veterinary linkages associated with a number of the cases, the Department has reiterated its advice, consistently given since the outbreak began, that veterinary practitioners should, at all times, observe the highest standards of hygiene and should ensure that, in all circumstances, contaminated veterinary instruments are either appropriately disposed of or thoroughly sterilized (autoclaved) before reuse.

In addition, any horse owner whose horse(s) shows any clinical symptoms suggestive of EIA should immediately contact their private veterinary practitioner and have arrangements made to have the horse sampled and the sample analyzed for the disease.

The Department has, from the outset, treated the outbreak very seriously and devoted considerable resources in its drive to contain and eradicate the disease. Notwithstanding today's announcement, the Department is acutely conscious of the need for continued and ongoing vigilance and will continue to devote such resources as are considered necessary to avoid any repeat of last year's outbreak.

The Department appreciates the value and prestige of the Irish bloodstock industry and is continuing to work closely with the various elements of the industry, including the breeding, racing, sports horse and sales sectors, and is committed to the maintenance of complete confidence in the industry.

The Department is committed to ensuring that it communicates comprehensively and frequently with both the thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred sectors and the wider industry, including the veterinary profession, and appreciates the very high level of co-operation and assistance provided by all those involved in the Irish equine industry. To that end, the Department has had ongoing dialogue with representatives of the thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred sectors as well as the veterinary profession - most recently at a meeting on March 21, 2007 - and intends to continue that dialogue. Discussions are also continuing about the establishment of a standing stakeholder group with representatives from the Department and the industry.

Both the Department and the bloodstock industry are agreed there is no place for complacency in the efforts to avoid further outbreaks of EIA in Ireland.

Courtesy: The HorseTV Channel News, http://www.horsetv.com


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