By MEGGIE. I. FOSTER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Members of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) recently voted to temporarily lift the testing requirement for equine piroplasmosis (EP) at Hoosier race tracks, a change expected to save race horse owners up to $390,000 in testing expenses annually.
“This originally came about as a result of an escalation in incidents, but what we’ve seen over the last several months are fewer and fewer instances and more states removing the requirement altogether,” said Sarah Simpson, director of legal affairs and enforcement for BOAH at the quarterly meeting on Jan. 24. “We wanted to align our requirements with other tracks to maintain that our Hoosier tracks continue to be competitive.”
The standing requirement was established by board members nearly two years ago in response to a growing number of cases of the disease at thoroughbred and quarter horse race tracks around the country. However, since then, awareness of the disease and increased testing and preventative efforts have reduced the number of cases dramatically across the United States, explained Simpson.
“When the regulation was implemented it was directed toward a proactive cause, however now that the piroplasmosis threat has abated it makes it extremely difficult to attract quality horses for our racing program,” said Brian Elmore, vice president and general manager of racing at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, Ind., in a Nov. 5 letter to Indiana State Veterinarian Bret Marsh. “A number of neighboring states and racetracks have recently eliminated specific entry requirements related to piroplasmosis, only adding to the difficulty of attracting out of state equine competitors.”
The disease is primarily transmitted to horses by ticks and is often spread mechanically from animal to animal by contaminated needles. Cases of equine piroplasmosis can be mild or acute, depending on the virulence of the parasite. Acutely affected equine can have fever, anemia, jaundiced mucous membranes, swollen abdomens, and labored breathing. Chronic carriers are the source of most infections.
The last known positive horse with EP was well over one year ago, according to Sandra Norman, DVM and director of the companion animal and equine health program for BOAH.
“We just don’t see the need for this at the tracks at this time,” said Norman. “Though, if needed it could be reinstituted by emergency rule again if necessary.”
Since the risk of acquiring EP has declined, BOAH opted to eliminate the testing requirement altogether just in time for this year’s racing season.
The emergency rule, which becomes effective Feb. 1, 2013, can be readopted at the April meeting, but will expire by the end of July, according to Simpson. So in response, the board also passed the first reading of a proposed permanent rule to officially repeal animal health requirements for exhibition, particularly equine piroplasmosis testing for horse racing meetings. As process of the state and the board, once the first reading is passed, the board will host a public hearing on the rule in April, then provided enough support is given, the rule will have a final reading and hopeful passage at the July quarterly meeting, when it may become permanently effective.
For more information on EP, visit www.in.gov/boah
Chronic wasting disease update
In addition to an update on EP in the state of Indiana, the board also received a detailed report on chronic wasting disease (CWD) from program manager and DVM Shelly Chavis.
In October of 2012, the board suspended the importation of farmed cervids (deer, elk, moose, etc.) from Pennsylvania after the first case of CWD was identified on Oct. 11.
At that time, BOAH veterinarians begun the process of identifying and locating deer imported into Indiana from the Adams County, Pa., captive facility where the CWD-positive three-year-old farm-raised deer was housed.
According to Chavis, as a result, 21 premises and 16 herds were quarantined and tested in the state of Pennsylvania. From that group, many animals and herds were tested and released while 10 animals from three different herds were found to be potentially CWD-exposed animals.
The traced herds were located in Jackson, Noble and Whitley counties of Indiana. From those herds, all animals were tested, euthanized and found negative, with the exception of one buck, known as “Yellow 47” (tag number) that escaped after a fallen tree destroyed nearby fencing. To date, Indiana has had zero positive CWD cases, according to Denise Derrer, public information director for BOAH.
“The owner understands that if he can’t find this buck, we will be back to his farm and be forced to take further action,” said Chavis.
Because of CWD-exposed animals being traced to Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana and Missouri all closed their borders to interstate shipping of cervids until recently.
Chronic wasting disease is one of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encepalopathies, a variant of scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The disease is fatal in deer, elk and moose, and can be spread among animals through body fluids. There is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Pennsylvania is the 23rd state to have a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease and the 13th state to have it only in a captive deer herd.
CWD was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967.
According to Chavis, in 2002, Indiana created a monitoring program to detect the presence of CWD. Department of Natural Resources biologists annually obtain tissue samples from random hunter-harvested deer throughout the state. Outwardly noticeable sick deer reported to the DNR also have been tested, and collection of random samples from road killed deer began in 2007. CWD has not been detected in more than 12,200 deer during this monitoring period.
For continued updates on CWD in Indiana and Pennsylvania, visit www.in.gov/boah