As a reminder to equine owners, now is good time to vaccinate against EEE and West Nile Virus.

by | May 20, 2024

Summary: Equine owners can protect their horses, mules and donkeys against mosquito-borne illnesses by getting them vaccinated for EEE and West Nile Virus. Both can be deadly for equine.

Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis 

  • In the South with the arrival of spring, we know it’s also time for mosquitoes to emerge. Unfortunately, they typically stick around until our first frost.
  • We all know they are annoying pests for us humans, but they can also pass viruses to equine that can be deadly.
  • This time of year, we encourage equine owners to have their animals vaccinated against Triple E (EEE) or Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (pronounced N seph fah lo my e light us) and West Nile Virus. Both are transmitted through mosquitoes and can be deadly for equine.
  • EEE is fatal 90 percent of the time in horses and WNV has a fatality rate of 30 percent.
  • The good news is both diseases are preventable by vaccination.
  • To me, equine vaccines are a great example of “an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.”
  • Equine owners can also take some steps on the farm or at a boarding site to reduce the risk for their animals.
  • Those include:
    •  Remove any source of standing water since mosquitoes can breed in any puddle of water that lasts for four days or more.
    • Keep horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans.
    •  Turn off lights after dusk.
    •  Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  •  We are fortunate that so far this year we have had no cases of EEE or WNV, but last year there were seven cases of EEE.
  •  Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death.
  •  It may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.
  •  Symptoms of WNV include fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, impaired vision, head pressing, seizures and aimless wandering.
  •  There is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.
  •  We recommend owners talk with their vet about a vaccination plan. It is also a good idea to keep up to date on Coggins testing or EIA testing (Equine Infectious Anemia) as well.
  •  Since January there have been three cases of EIA in North Carolina. There is no vaccine and no cure for this disease so testing annually is important. A negative Coggins test is required for horse shows at state operated facilities and many other horse shows across the state.
  •  It’s also a great time to make sure your animal is current on its rabies vaccination, since livestock are naturally curious animals, which puts them at risk for a bite if a rabid animal gets through their fence line.
  •  This is also a timely reminder because we have seen two positive rabies cases in livestock this year.
  •  Your animals are an investment of your time, money and energy, so it makes sense to protect them as best you can.