An article in the July 5 Tribune — where Williams Lake veterinarian Dr. Doug Magnowki warned of swamp fever in horses in the Anahim Lake area in anticipation of the Anahim Lake Stampede last weekend — has sparked a response from the Anahim Lake Community Association.
On July 6, the association forwarded a letter to the Tribune it received from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regarding the swamp fever concerns. In the letter, acting CFIA veterinarian Gary DeBruin told the association he felt the Anahim Lake Stampede should proceed, and that the Equine Infectious Anemia (swamp fever) horses had contracted the virus in the summer of 2011 or earlier.
“Therefore this is not an outbreak or epidemic of the disease this year, but rather a smoldering problem that has recently been uncovered. The known positive horses are quarantined away from the rodeo grounds and will be dealt with as soon as possible,” DeBruin noted.
He also advised organizers to keep feral horses away from the rodeo grounds during the rodeo, and that liberal doses of insect repellent and horse blankets were recommended.
One of the rodeo planners, Dale Tuck, told the Tribune Tuesday the rodeo went as planned and attendance numbers weren’t down that much from previous years, although there were quite a few turnouts among competitors.
Tuck said swamp fever exists in the region, and the association didn’t feel it was fair of Magnowski to single out Anahim Lake.
When asked about the fact the BC Rodeo Association website had also posted a swamp fever advisory for the rodeo, Tuck said the advisory didn’t “red flag” Anahim Lake, like Magnowski had.
Magnowski, however, maintains he had a duty to warn the public.
He had been waiting for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to test more than the seven horses it tested, of which five were positive, because one of the horses that tested positive had contracted the disease in the summer of 2011 or earlier.
“Are all the horses that were exposed last year negative? We don’t know because the federal government has not tested them,” Magnowski said, adding no one wants to admit there’s an issue with swamp fever out west. “I’m going to use DeBruin’s letter to point out that they need to be testing more horses. He says it’s not an epidemic or an outbreak, but rather a smoldering problem that’s recently been uncovered. EIA is federally mandated. If this is the case then those horses need to be tested because the horses that were in contact with these horses in the summer of 2011 need to be dealt with.”
Speaking from Burnaby CFIA veterinary specialist Dr. Bob Cooper confirmed EIA continues to be found in low levels in western Canada, particularly in Saskatchewan, northern Alberta, B.C. and the Yukon.
“It’s out there and we see it in some of those areas a little more frequently. We talk in general terms when we’re talking disease response, but I can say we are currently investigating one premise with positive horses on it in Central BC,” Cooper said.
Aside from a CFIA response, when it comes to testing for EIA, testing can also be instigated voluntarily by the owner, or a vet can go out and test a horse because it’s suspected to have the disease, Cooper explained.“It’s not just about testing a few animals and going from there. We look at movement of animals and we work within a time frame of 30 days of contact. It’s a control program. We’re not trying to eliminate the disease in Canada; that’s an impossibility, but we’re working with industry to try and manage the disease when it shows up.”
If there are no other horses on the property in the last 30 days, they don’t have to be tested. Each case is different.
“EIA is a federally reportable disease and CFIA takes all reports seriously. It’s not just about B.C. It’s about the rest of Canada, but also locally there are concerns and that’s why we have a formal response in place.”
When asked if Magnowski was blowing the incidences of the disease out of proportion, Cooper responded any time somebody is proactive in educating people where they may not be aware of it is a good thing.
Raising awareness is something Magnowski said he will continue to do. He plans to contact the College of Veterinarians and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, hoping they will have some input.
“The last thing we need is the Cariboo Chilcotin to be labelled as a swamp-fever hot spot. That’s why the government needs to do something. It needs to be dealt with. People don’t understand the negative implications of this in the general equine world.”
He says a perfectly healthy horse may carry the virus and show no symptoms until something causes the clinical symptoms to manifest themselves.
Earlier this spring Magnowski had a young client whose barrel horse had a foal and the stress of foaling made her sick. She died of EIA.
“Her foal is now potentially positive and will potentially have to be euthanized. We need to take the higher ground on this,” he said.