A second horse in the Westcountry has tested positive for the deadly "swamp fever" virus within weeks of an earlier case, the Western Morning News can reveal.
The virus, which is spread via biting insects, is an exotic viral disease that affects horses, mules and donkeys and can often be fatal. It poses no threat to humans.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed yesterday that a second case of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) has been detected in a horse at an undisclosed livery yard in Devon.
The affected horse was humanely destroyed yesterday. Movement restrictions on the premises at which it was stabled, along with another ten horses, have been put in place. A veterinary inquiry into the clinical history of the confirmed case is under way.
This follows a previous case of EIA confirmed on October 3 (WMN, October 4) at an undisclosed address in Mid Cornwall. Defra has confirmed the two cases are linked.
Defra Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Alick Simmons, said: "We have robust controls to prevent infected horses being imported and there have only been five incidences of EIA since 2008."
Mr Simmons added: "This case was discovered following our investigations into a previous confirmed case of EIA in Cornwall earlier this month. We are seeking to trace other horses that travelled with these two animals when they were imported in April 2008. We have no reason to believe this disease is widespread in the UK."
Defra also confirmed that these two cases are linked to an incident of the disease confirmed in Devon in 2010. All three of the horses that have so far tested positive in the South West for the disease travelled into the UK together on the same batch from Romania.
"It's good that we have a source and we are keen to make people aware and encourage anyone to come forward who thinks their horse might have been on the same lorry," added a Defra spokesman.
There would have been around 15 animals on board.
Infected animals can carry the virus for life and pose a permanent risk to others. However the disease does not spread quickly and is unlikely to spread widely from infected horses as the flies that transmit the disease only travel short distances to feed.
EIA is a notifiable disease and any owner or keeper who suspects a horse might have it must contact their local AHVLA (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) office.