Texas County at high risk for equine piroplasmosis

A cayenne tick is removed from a horse.
A cayenne tick is removed from a horse. © USDA

Authorities in Texas have declared Kleberg County a high-risk area for the protozoan disease, equine piroplasmosis, and will begin testing horses there from April.

The Texas Animal Health Commission formally designated the country in southern Texas to be at high risk from the disease.

The commission will hold at meeting in the county on March 18 at 6.30pm at the Dick Kleberg Park Recreation Building in Kingsville to provide information about the disease and testing plans.

Equine piroplasmosis is a blood-borne protozoal disease that affects all equines, including horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and zebras.

It can be transmitted from a positive horse to a negative horse by blood transfer from dirty instruments or
insect carriers, such as ticks.

A treatment protocol has been developed that clears the infection and can lead to the release of horses that eventually test negative.

The disease is currently not considered endemic in Texas or the United States. However, isolated outbreaks have occurred.

After extensive testing in Kenedy and Kleberg counties, many cases were detected. Kleberg County has therefore been designated a high-risk area for the disease.

There are an estimated 225 premises and 500 equines in the initial Kleberg County test area, extending south from Escondido Creek to the Kleberg-Kenedy county line.

The projected completion date for the testing program is the summer of 2013.

“Equine Piroplasmosis is considered a foreign animal disease in the US,” state veterinarian Dr Dee Ellis said.

“However, new cases continue to be discovered, even three years after the initial case was found.

“Piro can be spread by way of ticks. South Texas has a high population of this parasite. It is common practice for horses in this South Texas area to be used on local ranches and/or in weekend events such as rodeos, roping, trail rides, etc. Ticks can spread Piro through this very movement of horses.”

Ellis said the commission sought the support of equine owners and veterinarians to make this testing effort a success and help assure the health of the equine population.


Kleberg County Equine Piroplasmosis Public Meeting. Monday, March 18. 6:30 p.m. Kingsville.
An informational public meeting will be held on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 pm at the Dick Kleberg Park Recreation Building in Kingsville. The address of the facility is: Building 501 East Escondido Rd. Kleberg County equine owners and veterinarians are encouraged to attend this public meeting. Region 5 management and TAHC executive directors will provide key information regarding the disease, testing, etc.


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