A Palm Beach County horse is quarantined in a Broward County farm after testing positive for a rare contagious — and sometimes fatal — equine virus.
So far no horses that could have come in contact with Roany, the sick horse, have tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia, according to state agriculture officials.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plans to test three more horses, all in Okeechobee County.
Officials have tested about 50 horses, most at two farms in Okeechobee County where Roany spent several months this year. The only other location Roany is known to have been around other horses is at his Palm Beach County farm, where horses also tested negative.
The agriculture department did not have the exact location of the Palm Beach County farm immediately available.
Equine Infectious Anemia is not a common virus, nor is it highly contagious. There’s no vaccine or cure for it. It spreads through blood. Large biting insects — stable flies, mosquitoes — transmit it. So could infected needles. It doesn’t affect humans.
“It’s such a sporadic disease,” said Dr. Josh Hall, a Wellington veterinarian. “It just isn’t that common anymore. I wouldn’t be particularly worried. It’s certainly not something that all the other horsemen should be worried about.”
Florida agriculture rules say horses must be tested annually for the virus. If they’re sick, they must be euthanized or quarantined.
Roany’s test in about July 2012 was negative.
“There was no reason to suspect anything,” said Dr. Bill Jeter, bureau chief of the agriculture department’s Bureau of Animal Disease Control.
The Pony of Americas horse, a breed generally geared toward western-style riding, was at one Okeechobee County farm from December until January. Then moved to a second location in Okeechobee County where it stayed until March, when it returned to Palm Beach County.
The routine test came in July.
“Once it was positive, we had to go back to everywhere the horse has been since it was negative at the last test,” Jeter said.
So agriculture officials traced Roany’s whereabouts for the past year and tested any horses that were near him — within 200 yards of his farms, to be exact.
The state gets one or two cases of Equine Infectious Anemia a year, but some years it has none at all, agriculture department spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said.
Hall, who has treated horses for three decades and works frequently with polo ponies, has seen only two cases in his career. One horses subsequently tested negative. The other was very old, and located in Wellington, more than two decades ago.
“They just get really anemic and weak and become chronic carriers, so no one wants them around,” Hall said.
This Equine Infectious Anemia case isn’t as alarming as the the late 2006 equine herpes outbreak, which killed six horses statewide. Equine herpes passes through the air and also can spread on shoes, clothes and hands.
But it’s troubling, said Cynthia Gardner, chairwoman of Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee.
“If nothing else, to put people on notice that there was in fact an outbreak and that people need to be diligent,” she said.