FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2009
Dr. David Marshall
Equine owners should vaccinate against WNV, EEE
RALEIGH – Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler reminds equine owners that now is the best time to vaccinate their horses, donkeys and mules against West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis.
State Veterinarian Dr. David Marshall said these diseases are now endemic to North Carolina, but they are easily preventable.
“We haven’t had a lot of cases of EEE or West Nile the past few years, but the disease cycle ebbs and flows in our state,” Marshall said. “Horse owners should not let down their guard. They should continue to vaccinate against these diseases, and take other precautions to minimize standing water that would allow mosquitoes to breed.”
In 2008, North Carolina had 12 reported cases of EEE in horses, and 11 of them were fatal. It is estimated there are as many as four unreported cases of EEE for every one that is reported.
Horse owners should talk with their veterinarians to determine the best time to start the vaccination process for EEE and West Nile virus. Both vaccinations initially require two shots, 30 days apart, for horses that have no prior vaccination history. Neither vaccination fully protects the animal until several weeks after the second shot, so it is best to vaccinate as early in the mosquito season as possible.
Marshall recommends a booster shot of each vaccine be given every six months in North Carolina because of the extended active mosquito season.
Symptoms of WNV in horses can include loss of appetite and depression, fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, convulsions, impaired vision or hyper-excitability.
Symptoms of EEE, also known as “equine sleeping sickness,” include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death.
People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the virus to other horses, birds or people through contact.