From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
From time to time I use this column to talk about some area of work one of our divisions is involved in. This month I want to use the column to caution equine owners about a potentially deadly, but preventable, equine disease that we are starting to see in the state.
Equine owners need to be aware that North Carolina has had its first three cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis this year, which resulted in two horses having to be euthanized and one dying. Two cases occurred in Robeson County, both involving 2-year-old horses; a third case was in Bladen County and involved a 7-year-old stallion.
Unfortunately, these are not likely to be the only cases we see this year. Our state veterinarian, Dr. David Marshall, anticipates a better-than-average mos-quito season given the mild winter and the number of spring and summer rains we have had. Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts four days or more.
EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that, fortunately, can be prevented in equine through vaccinations. It causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. I share this information in hopes horse owners will talk with their veterinarians now about a vaccination plan to protect their animals from EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile virus. The EEE and WNV vaccinations initially require two doses for horses, mules and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. So it is important to get started now.
Mosquitoes are part of the landscape of the South, but there are a number of measures horse owners can take to help reduce the risk of their animals coming into contact with them. For starters, they can look to reduce any standing water, which can add to the mosquito population. Other suggestions for reducing exposure include keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans and turning off lights after dusk. Insect repellants may also be effective if used as directed.