Baton Rouge– Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said three horses – one located in Iberville and two in Lafourche parishes – have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
“Mosquitoes are out in force right now. The hot and wet conditions exacerbated by storms such as Hurricane Laura, increase the number of mosquitoes that could be carrying diseases,” said Strain. “Like humans, horses are infected by being bitten by mosquitoes. That is why it is so important to vaccinate your horses to help prevent them from getting sick. It is not too late to do so.”
According to Strain, if a mosquito bites an infected bird, small mammal or reptile, EEE or West Nile Virus (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.
Common signs can include: fever, loss of appetite, weakness, loss of coordination and circling. 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. Humans can also be infected by EEE.
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, donkeys and mules can also be vaccinated. 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.