Case description: A 7-year-old Quarter Horse gelding was hospitalized in Ocala, Fla, because of lethargy, fever, anorexia, and swelling of distal aspects of the limbs. A tentative diagnosis of equine piroplasmosis (EP) was made on the basis of examination of a blood smear. The case was reported to the Florida State Veterinarian, and infection with Babesia equi was confirmed. The subsequent investigation included quarantine and testing of potentially exposed horses for B equi and Babesia caballi infections, tick surveillance, and owner-agent interviews.
Clinical findings: 210 horses on 25 premises were tested for infection with EP pathogens. Twenty B equi-infected horses on 7 premises were identified; no horses tested positive for B caballi. Seven horses, including the index case, had clinical findings consistent with EP Dermacentor variabilis was considered the only potential tick vector for B equi collected, and all D variabilis specimens tested negative for Babesia organisms via PCR assay. Results of the epidemiological investigation suggested that B equi was spread by use of shared needles and possibly blood transfusions. All horses that tested positive were involved in nonsanctioned Quarter Horse racing, and management practices were thought to pose substantial risk of transmission of blood-borne pathogens.
Treatment and outcome: Final outcome of B equi-infected horses was euthanasia, death from undetermined causes, or shipment to a US federal research facility.
Clinical relevance: This investigation highlights the importance of collaboration between private veterinary practitioners, state veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and regulatory officials in the recognition, containment, and eradication of foreign animal disease.