COLUMBIA – It’s mosquito-carried disease season and horses need to be protected. Boyd Parr, South Carolina state veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health, recommends horse owners stay current on vaccinations for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile Virus (WNV) and rabies for their horses.
“South Carolina’s first 2013 case of EEE was confirmed in June,” said Parr. “Now is an especially good time to vaccinate or give a booster on previously vaccinated horses. Vaccination is very important in our coastal counties because the majority of last year’s cases were identified there.”
In 2013, South Carolina led the country with 49 confirmed cases of EEE, which is a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses that also can affect humans. It is preventable by vaccination in horses. Horse owners should consult with their veterinarians to be sure vaccinations against both EEE and WNV are up to date.
To track the cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in South Carolina, visit http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/eee_sc_veterinary.html
None of the horses infected during 2013 had been vaccinated effectively according to a review of vaccination history reported to Clemson Livestock Poultry Health.
The EEE virus is maintained in nature through a cycle involving the freshwater swamp mosquito, Culiseta melanura, commonly known as the blacktailed mosquito.
“Two to three days after becoming infected with EEE virus, a mosquito becomes capable of transmitting the virus,” said Adam Eichelberger, veterinarian overseeing LPH animal health programs. “Infected mosquitoes that feed on both birds and mammals can transmit the disease to horses and humans.”
Symptoms usually develop in horses from two to five days after exposure. Symptoms in horses include stumbling, circling, head pressing, depression or apprehension, weakness of legs, partial paralysis, the inability to stand, muscle twitching or death.
Nine out of every 10 horses infected with EEE virus die from the disease. In South Carolina last year, 48 of the 49 of the confirmed cases died from the EEE infection.
Any livestock (including horses) that display neurologic symptoms – stumbling, circling, head pressing, depression or apprehension – must be reported to the state veterinarian at 803-788-2260 within 48 hours, according to state law.