The Missouri Department of Agriculture has notified state and federal officials that the two quarantined horses were illegally removed from an equine center in Raytown, Jackson County on Wednesday night, when locks were cut from doors and stalls. The Department of Agriculture was notified on June 4th that the horses were Piroplasmosis-positive and immediately placed them in quarantine, preventing movement of any horse from the center. The FBI is now working with state officials to locate the horses, which are micro-chipped.
Equine Piroplasmosis is caused by protozoan parasites which are endemic in most of the world, with only Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, England, and Ireland not considered endemically affected. These parasites are transmitted by ticks and other biting insects, and by contact with contaminated blood. Incubation of the disease is between 10 and 30 days, and symptoms are difficult to identify because of their similarity to other conditions. Effects of the disease include red blood cell destruction, which leads to anemia, increased respiratory rate, and increased heart rate. In very acute cases horse can experience sudden death, and the mortality rate in an infected population can reach 50%.
After import of infected horses from Cuba in the 1960s, a Piroplasmosis epidemic killed approximately 20% of horses in an Indian Reservation in Florida. After an aggressive eradication and tick control campaign, the United States was again considered free of the disease in 1982. Subsequently, the international transport of horses is substantially affected by equine Piroplasmosis.
"We continue to do everything we can to locate the two Piroplasmosis-positive horses. Although this disease is not easily transmittable and does not affect humans, it is a disease that through ticks and contaminated needles can have a great impact on our horse industry," said Dr. Jon Hagler, director of the Department of Agriculture. "The Department of Agriculture is working with local, county, state and federal officials to do everything we can to find these horses. We are asking anyone that has seen anything suspicious to notify their local authorities."