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5 Florida horses test positive for piroplasmosis

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Bradenton, Fla. -- State officials quarantined a Manatee County property where five cases of equine piroplasmosis (EP), a disease not reported in the United States since 1988, were confirmed.

Bradenton, Fla.

-- State officials quarantined a Manatee County property where five cases of equine piroplasmosis (EP), a disease not reported in the United States since 1988, were confirmed.

The first case, a 7-year-old gelding that was euthanized after a three-week illness, was confirmed Aug. 15 on the basis of blood and tissue testing, according to Charles H. Bronson, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services commissioner. On Aug. 19, four more cases were confirmed on the same property.

All five animals that tested positive were stabled in a barn. Other horses housed separately on the property were negative.

EP, a blood-borne parasitic disease transmitted to horses by ticks or contaminated needles, was eradicated in Florida in the 1980s, and the tick species believed to transmit it in other countries has not been found in Florida in years. Officials did find 20 ticks identified as the Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) on the property, but that species has not been associated with the disease.

The five positives might have been spread by shared needles, based on a preliminary investigation, officials said.

Everyone involved in Florida's horse industry was asked to notify a veterinarian if they suspect the disease. Recovered horses can become chronic carriers without exhibiting signs. The disease can be fatal in up to 20 percent of previously unexposed animals.

Human infection with EP is extremely rare.

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