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Chapter 8 - Reportable diseases
8.4 Equine infectious anemia

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This module provides a basic description of the disease including its diagnosis, as well as a summary of those aspects of the program that relate to accredited veterinarians, including policy, testing, submission processes, and the distribution of test results.

As of December 1, 2021, it will be mandatory to use digital EIA test certificates unless the practice meets the low-volume testing criteria for a digital exemption. In addition, paper form CFIA/ACIA 4679 – Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) Domestic Serum Test Report and Certificate for multiple horses is no longer accepted. The digital exemption application period for low-volume testers is open from November 1 to 30, 2022.

Report on mandatory use of digital EIA test certificates in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) held an online consultation to seek input from private veterinarians that are accredited by the CFIA to perform duties related to the equine infectious anemia (EIA) control program in Canada.

In August of 2021, the CFIA posted a report summarizing the feedback received on key issues and important program updates.

In this chapter

Clinical disease

Equine infectious anemia (EIA) is a viral disease of equinesFootnote 1 that is characterized by a variable clinical presentation and course that can include, but is not limited to:

The infected equine is a carrier of the virus for life, and there is no available vaccine or treatment for EIA.

Diagnosis

A tentative diagnosis of EIA may be made on clinical signs, but serological testing is required to confirm disease status. A Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-approved EIA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is used for screening, and any sample that receives a non-negative ELISA result is then tested with the EIA agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) test (Coggins test). Confirmatory testing is performed at the CFIA's EIA National Reference Laboratory (NRL).

Policy

EIA has been a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act since 1971 when a reliable test for the disease was made available. At that time, EIA was considered to be endemic in certain areas in northern Canada, and the number of positives in the tested population was approximately 2.9%.

The current EIA program was developed in response to a request from the Canadian horse industry to help protect its equines and maintain their competitiveness by respecting international health requirements. The CFIA's approach to EIA is to control the spread of the disease in the owned equine population.

Funding for the EIA Disease Control Program is supported by industry through a cost-recovery program. A fee is collected for each sample that is submitted to laboratories that are approved by the CFIA to perform EIA testing.

All members of the family Equidae, comprising horses, donkeys, mules, and zebras, are test-eligible, regardless of sex or age.

EIA suspects must be reported to the CFIA, and equines with non-negative screening results are dealt with in accordance with the mandatory response portion of the current EIA Disease Control Program. Confirmed cases must be removed from the population to help prevent the spread of the virus. Equines confirmed to be infected with EIA are ordered destroyed and owners are eligible to receive compensation in accordance with the Compensation for Destroyed Animals Regulations.

Testing for domestic activities and export to the United States (U.S.) and Mexico

EIA accredited veterinarians are authorized to collect blood samples for EIA testing and submit them only to CFIA EIA-approved laboratories listed in module 3.3 Laboratories. Testing may be required:

Before taking the blood sample advise the owner,

If an equine is suspected of being infected with EIA, it is imperative to use a sampling protocol that will prevent the transfer of blood from 1 equine to another equine, or its sample (such as to contaminate another sample). The following guidelines should be used when examining equines or procuring samples:

Shipping samples

CFIA-approved laboratories will only accept submissions that are accompanied by a CFIA-approved (digital or paper) submission document that is complete and accurate. See below for details pertaining to approved paper and digital submission methods.

After collection, samples are kept refrigerated and shipped to the laboratory without delay. Use the safest and quickest means of shipment available. Ship samples only during the week to avoid having them delayed in transit or held over at the laboratory on weekends or holidays.

In case of delayed shipment, samples may be frozen and sent at a later date if the following requirements are met:

Note: a test result will only be valid if the test is performed within 3 weeks of the sampling date. Approved laboratories should not perform analysis on samples that do not comply with this timeline.

Digital system – Sample submission and result reporting

Sample submission

Accredited veterinarians (AV) must use a CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system to submit samples and create EIA test certificates. There are 2 exceptions to this:

  1. the AV submits samples on behalf of a practice to which all of the following apply:
    • 10 or less samples are submitted for EIA testing per calendar year
    • the practice has identified themselves as a low-volume tester to the CFIA by submitting a digital exemption application form
    • the practice is approved and remains in good-standing for a digital exemption and they have not received communications from the CFIA to the contrary
  2. the AV's practice is registered to use a CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system but the AV is forced to use a paper submission form due to circumstances outside of their control. For example, there is a technical malfunction with the digital system and they are unable to complete the sample submission. This is referred to as emergency use. If a practice is expected to exceed 10 emergency use submissions in a calendar year, first contact your local animal health district office. Failure to do so will result in the submissions being rejected by the approved laboratory.

If either (1) or (2) apply, an AV is permitted to submit samples for testing using paper Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 – Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) Serum Test Report and Certificate.

To use a CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system, the accredited veterinarian must register with the service provider and receive the necessary training from them. The CFIA EIA-approved laboratory that samples are being sent to for testing must also be registered with the same provider.

The data fields in the digital system are based on Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 and the following information requirements apply to both:

Owner information: record the legal name of the person, company or organization, and all contact information.

Animal location: record the precise legal description of the land location of the equine at the time of sampling, and the district office serving that location.

Reason for test: check-off only 1 box to indicate why the test is being requested. If more than 1 applies, choose the 1 that is most appropriate at the time of sampling.

Description of horse:

Submitter information: record the submitter code (accreditation number), submitter name and signature, sampling date, and all contact information.

If a digital submission is created and a mistake is noted before the approved lab completes testing, an accredited veterinarian can ask the approved laboratory to reject the incorrect submission. Please contact the approved laboratory to confirm the details for this process. If a mistake is noted after the sample has been tested, the accredited veterinarian may, at the owner's request, re-sample the equine and provide a new submission.

Digital photographs

Ensure that the digital photographs are of good quality by taking into consideration lighting conditions, cleanliness, image resolution, proper positioning of the equine and the absence of objects that could obstruct the animal (for example, saddle, blanket, structures). The only animal that should be visible in the photograph is the one being tested. The only exceptions to this would be if other animals are partially visible in the distant background, or if a foal is with its mare. In the latter case, the animal being tested must not be obstructed by the other. Every effort should be made to exclude human handlers from the picture.

It is the responsibility of the accredited veterinarian to ensure that the photographs in the equine's digital profile are representative of the animal's appearance at the time of sampling. If significant changes have occurred since the original photos were taken, new photos are required and the physical description text amended to reflect the changes. Examples include newly acquired marks such as brands or scars, or age-related colour changes.

Getting good quality photographs is usually possible although sometimes it can be challenging due to the animal's temperament and/or the environmental conditions. It's recommended that when it's known that photographs need to be taken at an upcoming appointment, that the veterinary practice notify clients of the need to have the animal adequately cleaned so that their markings are visible, as is necessary for the paper form, and that they are located in an area with sufficient lighting. If it is known that an equine will not allow for proper photographs to be taken during the appointment, it's possible to ask the owner to take their own photographs, send them to the veterinary practice, and have the practice upload them onto the digital platform. The photographs must conform with the requirements listed below and the accredited veterinarian must be able to confirm that the submitted pictures match the animal they are sampling.

Failure to produce good quality photographs may result in the digital EIA test certificate being rejected by an inspector. If needed, please reach out to the digital service provider for tips on how to get the best photographs.

Note that all white markings need to be visible on digital photographs, and that the full length of all appendages needs to appear in the photographs. For frontal photographs, if the only markings are on the head, the photograph can be limited to the head. If there are white markings on the front legs, the full length of the legs must be included in the photographs. All descriptor fields are required to be filled. Please use "N/A" or "None" if appropriate. If a digital submission system is used for equines with very detailed markings (for example, Appaloosas), written descriptions of the white markings are not required and "N/A" can be used in the descriptor fields.

Accredited veterinarians are responsible for the security and proper use of their digital signature and shall take reasonable care to prevent its misuse. Only accredited veterinarians are authorized to sign documents using their password protected electronic signature. Other clinic staff do not have the authority to be part of the signing process. Utilization of your digital signature by anyone other than yourself would be considered a breach of your agreement as an accredited veterinarian and would render the form invalid. Please note that provisions of article 10 from your Accredited Veterinarian Agreement also apply to the digital submission of documents through a digital system.

Final digital EIA test certificates are recognized as official EIA test results if they are produced using a CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system. Black and white or colour printed copies of the CFIA-approved electronic EIA test certificate are both acceptable and can be used for domestic use within Canada and as proof of a negative EIA test result for export purposes.

Result reporting

For a negative EIA test result, the CFIA-approved digital EIA test certificate is available online in real-time by the owner (optional), the accredited veterinarian, the CFIA-approved laboratory and the CFIA.

For a non-negative EIA test result, the system will generate a CFIA-approved digital EIA test certificate that is watermarked with the word "inconclusive". The owner of the equine will not have access to the digital inconclusive test certificate on the CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system. The submitting accredited veterinarian will have access to the digital inconclusive test certificate but is not to provide the client with a copy of the certificate or report the result to the owner until after confirmatory testing at the EIA NRL is complete. If the results are confirmed to be positive for EIA, the CFIA district office will contact the accredited veterinarian and the animal's owner to inform them of next steps. If the results are confirmed to be negative, the CFIA district office will forward the results to the accredited veterinarian who will forward the negative documentation to the owner.

CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system

The CFIA-approved digital EIA test certification system is available in both official languages, although the main homepage is only available in English. Once you have registered to use the system (fees will apply), you will be provided with a username, a password and a link to a login page. The user's browser language will be detected by the system and will determine which language is displayed on the Canadian platform. The login page may also be accessed from the main homepage by selecting "login".

Paper Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 – Sample submission and result reporting

Sample submission

Under unique circumstances, accredited veterinarians can use Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 to submit a blood sample from an individual equine for domestic purposes and for any testing being performed for export to the U.S. or Mexico. Please refer to the Digital system submission section above for a description of when paper submissions will be permitted. Note that beginning in 2023, practices designated as unapproved will be contacted by the CFIA to inform them they will no longer be able to submit the paper form to approved laboratories, and doing so will result in the submission being rejected by the lab.

All fields on Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 must be completed in full unless the information does not exist; strike-out all unused fields. Please refer to the Digital system submission section above for a description of the required information.

The top 3 copies (1-white, 2-light yellow, and 3-pink), of Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 must be submitted to the CFIA-approved laboratory with the blood sample. The submitter (accredited veterinarian) retains the fourth copy (dark yellow). This copy is not to be marked with results or used as a duplicate.

Result reporting

For a negative EIA test result at the CFIA-approved laboratory, the form will be marked with the test results and signed by an authorized person. Copy 1 (white) of the form will be returned to the submitter (accredited veterinarian). Copy 2 (light yellow) will be forwarded by the CFIA-approved laboratory to the district office that serves the sampling location. Test results will not be disclosed by the CFIA-approved laboratory over the telephone. Under unique circumstances, the accredited veterinarian can request that the laboratory send a copy of the original certificate via fax, or email to the district office prior to the district office receiving the mailed copy.

Under no circumstances is an accredited veterinarian or a CFIA-approved laboratory to make any alterations to the form once laboratory results have been entered. If the animal description is not accurate or required information is missing, the accredited veterinarian may, at the owner's request, re-sample the equine for testing and provide a new submission form.

In the case of a non-negative EIA test result at a CFIA-approved laboratory, the district office that serves the sampling location will be notified of the result within 24 hours by the laboratory. Copy 1 (white) and copy 2 (light yellow) of the form will be mailed to the district office. The serum sample will be forwarded to the NRL where confirmatory testing will be conducted. If the final result is confirmed to be negative, a CFIA veterinarian will send the original submitter (accredited veterinarian) copy 1 (white) of the form along with a Client Information Sheet (CIS) that includes the NRL test results.

If the confirmatory results are non-negative (inconclusive or positive), those will be reported to the accredited veterinarian, as well as the owner of the equine, by a CFIA veterinarian.

Digital exemption application form for accredited veterinarians – Low-volume testers

Practices, not individual veterinarians, that submit 10 or less samples for EIA testing per calendar year have the option to apply for an exemption from having to use a digital system. To apply, a veterinary practice must complete the on-line Digital exemption application form for accredited veterinarians, before December 1, 2022. Veterinary practices that apply for the EIA digital exemption by submitting this form will not receive a response from the CFIA unless additional information or clarifications are required. Therefore, unless the applying practice has been informed otherwise, they are approved for the digital exemption and are permitted to continue to submit samples using paper Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 - Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) Serum Test Report and Certificate. If the practice applied for an exemption in November 2021, and the practice still meets the low-volume criteria, they do not need to re-apply for an exemption in November 2022.

The CFIA will be reviewing 2022 laboratory submission data to ensure that those practices with a digital exemption do in fact meet the exemption criteria and remain approved.

Any practice that is going to exceed 10 paper submissions during the year needs to follow the instructions outlined above to start using the digital EIA test certification system. The CFIA will contact practices if they exceed the low-volume criteria during the course of the year, and their exemption may be revoked.

If you have any questions please reach out to your local animal health district office.

References

Copies of Form CFIA/ACIA 3937 are available from your local animal health district office.

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