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Possible equine piroplasmosis case suspends NZ - Australia horse exports

Mare and foal - Pixabay

 

Possible equine piroplasmosis case suspends NZ - Australia horse exports

By Equestrian Life

Horse exports from New Zealand to Australia have been suspended indefinitely, just two weeks after trans-Tasman flights resumed following the covid-19 shutdown.

However, this most recent shutdown is not covid-related — it’s as a result of a possible case of equine piroplasmosis.

An article published today in ANZ Bloodstock News reports that a possible case of tick-borne equine piroplasmosis in NZ could result in horse exports from New Zealand to Australia being suspended for three years.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) yesterday informed exporters that shipments to Australia had been suspended with immediate effect. A flight on Tuesday night was prevented from leaving the country, with New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) yesterday informing exporters that shipments to Australia had been suspended with immediate effect. 

A mare tested positive to equine piroplasmosis in a recent pre-export blood test. The horse, who had been imported from an EU country last year where the disease is present, has shown no physical signs, but it can be asymptomatic. Further testing is now underway to see whether the horse is infected with Theileria equi, one of two protozoa parasites known to cause equine piroplasmosis.

When imported from Europe last year, the horse met MPI’s importing requirements in that it had received a negative test for Theileria equi within 30 days of shipment. Horses go through pre-export quarantine and have ticks removed before flying, before entering a second quarantine once they reach NZ.

The disease cannot be spread from horse to horse without the ticks that transmit the parasites, and they are not found in NZ. However, some countries still require that the disease has not been present in the exporting country for a certain amount of time, including Australia.

Export certificates for horses traveling to Australia, either for transit or permanent import, requires MPI to certify that ‘no clinical, epidemiological or other evidence of equine piroplasmosis has occurred in New Zealand within the three (3) year period immediately prior to export’.

This means that due to the positive test in NZ, it’s possible horses will be unable to travel from NZ to Australia until 2023 — that being said, there is hope this can be avoided. NZ’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MIP) recognises the cause for concern in NZ’s equine sector, and is working to find a solution — stay tuned for updates.

Australia reported its last case of the Theileria equi parasite in the Southern Highlands in 1976, but it was contained and Australia is now considered free of equine piroplasmosis.

Further info can be found by reading Andrew Hawkin’s article in ANZ Bloodstock News here.

What is equine piroplasmosis?

According to the Centre for Food Security and Public Health (US), equine piroplasmosis is a tick-borne protozoal disease that affects horses and other equids.

It is caused be two protozoa, Babesia caballi and Theileria equi, and these parasites are generally transmitted between animals by certain species of ticks.

“The consequences of infection may include asymptomatic carriage, an acute and potentially life-threatening illness, or chronic disease with vague clinical signs such as reduced exercise tolerance. Piroplasmosis is a significant constraint to the international movement of equids, limiting both trade and participation in international competitions. Approximately 90% of equids worldwide are thought to live in areas where this disease is endemic, and detecting asymptomatic carriers can be difficult.”

Learn more about equine piroplasmosis here.

 

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