Press release

Equine infectious anaemia detected in a horse

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) has been detected in a horse in Northumberland following importation from the Netherlands, Defra confirmed today.

The premises is currently under restriction and the infected horse will be humanely destroyed in line with existing regulations.  The other horses on the premises are currently subject to epidemiological investigation.

The horse arrived in a group of six horses originating in the Netherlands and all have been tested for EIA as part of routine post-import testing. The other five horses in the group have all tested negative.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said:

“This again shows the success of our post import testing regime. These were apparently healthy horses carrying a notifiable disease that we are keen to keep out of Great Britain. After considering the risk I have decided to take appropriate action and humanely destroy this horse.”


  • Equine Infectious Anaemia is a virus disease of horses causing intermittent fever, anaemia, emaciation and death. It can be transmitted by the exchange of  blood by biting insects and occurs typically in low-lying swampy areas.
  • EIA is not a zoonotic disease, The Health Protection Agency advice is that EIA is not a risk to human health and that there is no evidence that this outbreak presents a risk to the local community.
  • A notifiable disease is a disease named in section 88 of the Animal Health Act 1981 or an Order made under that Act and must be reported.
  • This disease occurs in horses, mules and donkeys. Animals may be acutely, chronically or subclinically affected. The incubation period is variable, from a matter of days to a few months but generally one to three weeks. Antibodies usually develop seven to 14 days after infection and last for life.
  • For an animal testing positively for EIA, the only course of action is to humanely put it down. This may be for the welfare of the affected horse, but also to protect other horses from infection. Once infected, horses are infected for life and can pose a risk to other horses in close proximity. We have agreed with equine industry veterinary surgeons that destruction is the only policy. This response is in accordance with both the Infectious Disease of Horses Order 1987 and the Specified Disease (Notification and Slaughter) Order 2006.
  • For further information please see our Equine infectious anaemia pages.