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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The state of Georgia is refusing to allow virus-infected horses to compete in the summer Olympics because American horses are not immune, a University of Tennessee horse specialist said Wednesday.

 The policy applies to horses infected with piroplasmosis, a tick-borne disease which causes fever, swelling and often death in horses.

 “We haven’t had a problem with that virus in a long time,” Harper said. “Our horses no longer have immunity to anything like that.”

 Harper said piroplasmosis is a problem in countries with heavy tick populations and a warm climate.

 Officials of the International Equestrian Federation and the European Union have asked the U.S. government to intercede and get Georgia to relax its policy.

 Georgia’s agricultural commissioner, Tommy Irvin, has set some conditions under which a few horses could participate in the Olympics, but his rules would ban horses that compete in the cross-country event.

 Contact: Fred Harper (423-974-7294)