Infected does not mean Infectious



Equine Infectious Anemia is a disease that infects horses (ponies, mules and donkeys) on every continent where horses are present.  Although not officially recognized and named until 1843, every indication is that the disease has been present as long as horses, as we know them today, have been in existence. This disease has historically been self-limiting and in North America even in unmanaged herds, under natural conditions, has never been shown to have particularly devastating effects.

Test and Destroy, Past and Present

From the mid '60's to the mid '80's a considerable amount of research was done on this particular lentivirus in the USA.  Much can be learned about the disease from studying the reports of some of the leading researchers, such as Dr. Kittleson,  Dr. Tashjian,  Dr. McConnell,  Dr. Crawford and Dr. Issel.  As a matter of fact we have spoken directly to Dr.'s Kittleson, Tashjian, McConnell, and Issel and found them all to be very approachable on this subject.

In 1971 Dr. Leroy Coggins applied for and received a patent that gave him legal control over the use of (and the right to collect royalties on) an agar gel immunodiffusion  (AGID) test which he had adapted to detect the presence of antibodies for EIA. This adaptation later became known as the "Coggins" test.

In 1972 the US Department of Agriculture, because of various influences, decided to embark upon a "test and destroy" regulatory policy for the control of EIA.  The newly patented Coggins test would be put to use to identify reactor horses.  Canada's Department of Agriculture was quick to follow suit.  These "test and destroy" policies have been in effect in one form or another ever since. This line of thinking continued in spite of the fact that in a 1978 "Reappraisal of EIA", a vast majority of the researchers, active at that time, said that because of later discoveries they could not support the use of the Coggins test in this type of a regulatory policy.  The Coggins test was apparently firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy of our governments by that time because they chose to ignore the advice of the scientists who studied and researched this disease.  Both the US and Canadian governments continued to support and even encourage the use of the Coggins test in defiance of the only group of people that had a thorough understanding of the disease, its effects and its transmissibility.

Since 1972 the Health of Animals division of the Canadian Department of Agriculture (currently known as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)) has enforced various forms of a "test and slaughter" policy.  The Coggins test is used to screen populations of healthy horses in an attempt to single out and kill the ones that have EIA antibodies in their blood.  (The regulatory officials insist that there is a quarantine option but a study of that option reveals that it is there simply to satisfy the legal implications of the forced destruction of private property.)  We have not been able to locate anyone in the horse industry, or the government bureaucracy, who remembers exactly why the control regulations were put in place back in 1972 but we assume it had something to do with the fear of the disease being propagated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at that time, through the circulation of information including an extremely graphic and extremely misleading film.  Research completed during the 1970's and 1980's proved much of the information circulated by our governments in the early 1970's to be incorrect but to this day many people have not been able to erase this misinformation from their minds.  Many of these people hold positions of authority and are respected by the equine community.  Some of these people have been guilty of passing this false information on to others.  We continue to see newspapers and other publications printing misleading and in some cases totally false statements made by people that, by this time, should know better.

The policy currently being enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requires that any horse showing a positive reaction on a Coggins test will be destroyed or permanently quarantined. It also states that all horses on the same premises or in contact with a positive reactor within the previous thirty days shall, by law, be presented for a Coggins test as well.  Incidentally, the Canadian regulations for permanent quarantine are so absurd that we are quite confident that all positive reactors will be destroyed.