June 18, 2009

Department of Agriculture Has Notified State and Federal Officials of Two Piroplasmosis-Positive Horses Missing

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) - The Missouri Department of Agriculture has announced that two quarantined horses that tested positive for equine piroplasmosis are missing from a Raytown, MO equine center, located in Jackson County. Equine piroplasmosis is a bloodborne disease only transmitted to horses by ticks and mechanically from animal to animal by contaminated needles. Humans are at no risk of being affected by this disease.

On June 4, the Department of Agriculture was notified of a piroplasmosis-positive horse and immediately took action placing a quarantine on the Raytown Equine Center and put all of the horses at the facility on 24 hour surveillance. The quarantine, enacted by the Missouri State Veterinarian, was put in place to prevent movement of any horses from the equine center. Two horses were illegally removed from the premises Wednesday night following locks being cut from building doors and stalls. These horses are micro-chipped.

The Department is working with local, county and state officials as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation to locate the horses.

"We continue to do everything we can to locate the two piroplasmosis-positive horses. Although this disease is not easily transmittable and does not affect humans, it is a disease that through ticks and contaminated needles can have a great impact on our horse industry," said Dr. Jon Hagler, director of the Department of Agriculture. "The Department of Agriculture is working with local, county, state and federal officials to do everything we can to find these horses. We are asking anyone that has seen anything suspicious to notify their local authorities."

Seven horses tested positive for equine piroplasmosis on June 9. Today, with consent of the horse's owners, five piroplasmosis-positive horses were euthanized. An equine piroplasmosis-infected horse will show symptoms in mild forms such as weakness and lack of appetite. More acute cases include fever, anemia, jaundice, a swollen abdomen and labored breathing. Horses that survive the acute phase of infection may continue to carry the parasites for long periods of time. There is no cure for equine piroplasmosis.

For more information, please contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture at (573) 751-3377.