Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., is urging horse owners to vaccinate their animals for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV).
“Between the heat and recent wet weather from Tropical Storm Cristobal, the conditions are perfect for mosquitoes,” said Strain. “Horses are infected the same way humans are infected – by being bitten by infected mosquitoes – so everyone needs to take extra precautionary measures at this time.”
At this time, there is one WNV case reported in a horse in St. Tammany Parish. If a mosquito bites an infected bird, EEE or WNV can be spread to horses, dogs, cats and humans. These mosquito-transmitted diseases can cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
Clinical signs can include: fever, loss of appetite, weakness and loss of coordination.
The disease can often result in death.
EEE primarily causes disease in the equine species such as horses, mules, donkeys and zebras. However, a number of other animals such as pigs, llamas, bats, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents can also be infected.
WNV primarily affects birds, but can also infect bats, horses, cats, dogs, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits, alligators and humans.
Prevention includes removing standing water where mosquitoes breed and using mosquito repellents that are safe for animals and humans. Horses can also be vaccinated. So far, there is no vaccination approved for people. Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian regarding proper vaccination protocols during this time of increased risk.
Veterinarians are required to call the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry if they suspect EEE or WNV in a horse as they are reportable diseases.