Nationally, Departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services are urging all horse owners to check with their veterinarians regarding West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis vaccination recommendations for their animals. State officials are concerned that horse owners may be lulled into inaction by the lack of disease activity this past year.
Vaccines are available to drastically reduce the incidence of these diseases in horses. The vaccines are effective for six to twelve months, so horses should be re-vaccinated at least annually. In an area where the disease occurs frequently.
For the vaccine to be effective it must be handled and administered properly and be given at least two weeks before the horse is exposed to the virus. Additionally, to stimulate complete immunity, horses must be vaccinated twice, about 30 days apart, the first year that the horse is vaccinated. Other preventative measures include destroying standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, using insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn.
Typical symptoms of encephalitis in equines include staggering, circling, depression, loss of appetite and sometimes fever and blindness. There is no cure for these diseases, which can kill anywhere from 30 percent (WNV) to 90 percent (EEE) of the horses infected.
Humans cannot become infected by handling an infected horse, nor can a horse acquire the virus from another infected horse; however, the presence of an infected horse in the area indicates that mosquitoes carrying EEE or WNV are present and pose a threat to both humans and horses.