Seven Finney County horses have tested positive for equine infectious anemia, and as a result, many concerned area residents are holding their horses when it comes to equestrian events.
Finney County Fairgrounds Director Angie Clark addressed the Finney County Commission on Tuesday about how many horse enthusiasts are spooked by the EIA outbreak, leading to lost event revenues and cancellations.
Eight horses in all have tested positive for EIA in southwest Kansas, with seven in Finney County and one in Kearney County, but Clark said every confirmed case can be traced back to an index premises where specialists believe the outbreak began.
Clark declined to name the premises in deference to protocol, but the facility was described in the commissioners’ agenda packet as an “unsanctioned, informal horse racing facility.”
Clark said the two Garden City quarantine facilities, also unnamed, used to house the infectious animals are located east and west of the fairgrounds within a mile radius, “so it is real,” she said.
All horses infected by EIA and a deadly bloodborne disease called Piroplasmosis have been humanely euthanized. Other horses exposed to the index premises have been quarantined.
The Southwest Barrel Racing Association Jackpot equestrian event on Aug. 20 saw a significantly lower turnout than usual, Clark said, noting that 11 riders and their horses showed up for an event that usually attracts 35 to 50.
“That’s valid,” Clark said. “If you don’t know, you don’t move your horse. That’s pretty common in our industry.”
She added that two subsequent equestrian events slated for the following weekend were canceled due to the EIA outbreak.
EIA is described by the Kansas Department of Agriculture as an incurable, infectious viral disease. The virus can be transmitted during medical examinations by blood-contaminated syringes, needles and surgical equipment, or by transfusion of infective blood, biting flies and mosquitoes.
The disease does not infect people, but it can be spread to horses, mules or donkeys, and symptoms include fever, anemia and edema, which is swelling caused by excess fluids trapped within bodily tissues.
Now, Clark is concerned that the Kansas High School Rodeo event scheduled for Sept. 23 and 24 might be compromised by the outbreak. She said a veterinary official in Topeka has reassured her that the event should be safe to continue, but that ultimately that decision will be left to organizers of the rodeo.
“So far, all indications have been that they’re OK going ahead and hosting it here,” Clark said. “It is definitely a concern.”
According to Clark, the high school’s rodeo event usually brings in approximately $4,500 in stall rentals and RV hookups, plus additional sales revenue generated by participants’ family members headed into the region for overnight stays from Friday until Sunday that weekend.
Clark said the potential economic impact for the county is “tremendous.”
Clark suspects that each of the infectious animals contracted the virus within the last year. She said that although she doesn’t know exactly where the outbreak started, seven of the eight had been raced on tracks, meaning they had lip tattoos that would suggest they had been EIA-negative at the time.
Horses are given a Coggins test to detect EIA, and Clark said handlers aren’t required to prove that their horses are EIA-negative before traveling in Kansas, unless they cross state lines.
She added that handlers seeking overnight horse stays at the fairgrounds have had to prove EIA-negativity since spring, an initiative launched simply as “a good business practice.”
The virus was detected on Aug. 10 in a horse near Garden City after a routine Coggins test. Subsequent testing of all horses on the premises yielded a positive diagnosis of five others and one positive for Piroplasmosis, according to the KDA.
The KDA also noted that Kansas has had nine other positive EIA diagnoses in horses in the past 10 years: three in 2007, two in 2008 and four in 2016.
Horse owners with concerns about their animal’s health or questions about possible exposure to EIA are advised to contact local veterinarians. The KDA will post regular updates on the EIA investigation to its website.
In other County Commission news Tuesday:
• County Engineer John Ellermann said during a presentation to commissioners that the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Federal Fund Exchange Program allowing Local Public Authorities to exchange obligated federal funds for more easily used state funds is being scaled back from 90 cents on the dollar to 75 cents.
Ellermann said $260,000 in federal funds was reduced to $240,000 at the previous exchange rate this year, adding that the new rate would probably shave off an additional $60,000.
The move was announced in a KDOT memo noting that changes are planned to take place at the start of FY 2018 on Oct. 1.
The memo also noted that banking of federal and state funds will no longer be permitted, and all such funds available to LPAs must be used or requested for reimbursement by Sept. 15 of the same fiscal year, or they will be lost.
The new 75-cent exchange rate was described in the memo as temporary, and future exchange rates will be reviewed and established on an annual basis by the secretary of transportation.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to accept the new program provisions as they are and take whatever monies are made available.
However, commissioners will discuss the new provision again with local legislators at the next commission meeting on Sept. 18, and again on Sept. 21 with area legislators at the Kansas Association of Counties’ Legislative Policy Committee meeting.
• The commission also approved a roughly $37,000 increase to the $225,000 allocation approved on Aug. 15 for the widening of a portion of U.S. Highway 83 to accommodate the new Dairy Farmers of America plant.
Project costs surpassed initial estimates following replacement of blacktop with concrete to account for the weight of trucks coming to and from the facility.
All of the roughly $262,000 will be taken from the economic development incentive fund.