West Nile Confirmed in U.S. States: Protect Your Horses!
Summer is here… and we all know what that means! Get out your pool floats, sunblock and, of course, BUG SPRAY! As peak mosquito season is in full swing, it is important to be aware that the West Nile virus has been confirmed in many states, including Texas, California and Florida, which are all equine-centric states. Not only should people be protecting themselves from mosquitos that could potentially be carrying diseases, but we should also be protecting the four-legged members of our family too: OUR HORSES!
PC: Kassi Hoxmeier
First, let’s discuss three diseases that mosquitos carry that can and will affect our horses if we are not careful.
1. Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE)
2. Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE)
3. West Nile Virus
What is EEE/WEE and what are the signs
EEE and WEE are more common than the West Nile virus, and horses that are not vaccinated are much more susceptible to these diseases. Mosquitoes that have had contact with wild birds are typically the carriers of EEE. The EEE virus affects the central nervous system of a horse, and the signs of EEE can take up to five days to surface. Early EEE signs in horses can include fever, sleepiness or drowsy appearance, muscle twitches, and weakness. In extreme cases, horses can experience seizures and loss of appetite very early, as well. Unfortunately, there is not yet an effective treatment for EEE, and the mortality rate of infected horses is up to 90%. Brain damage may occur in surviving horses.
What is the WEST NILE VIRUS and what are the signs
The West Nile virus is also carried by mosquitos that have preyed on wild birds, and it, too, causes an inflammation within the central nervous system of both horses and humans. Sings of West Nile in infected horses include many of the same signs as EEE and WEE, such as fever, loss of appetite and weakness of limbs, but can also include impaired vision, hyperexcitability, and aimless walking or wandering. There is a West Nile vaccine available for horses to help protect them from incurring this virus, and it is strongly recommended by veterinarians.
Now that we know how these diseases work and what they look like, let us talk about how they can be prevented.
1. First, it is very important to get horses vaccinated for EEE, WEE and WNV. Although vaccinated horses can still acquire these illnesses, the chances are greatly reduced for them. In fact, vaccinated horses are 30 times less likely to be affected by these diseases!
2. Remove objects such as unused troughs, wheelbarrows and tarps to limit mosquito-breeding habitats
3. Clean water-holding objects weekly
4. Hang fans throughout barns or stables as mosquitos will avoid moving air
5. Apply insect repellant, especially from dusk until dawn, as these are prominent mosquito feeding times
By managing both the environment that our horses call home and their health care routine, it is possible to prevent mosquitos from infecting our horses. It is important to be aware that these diseases are present within the United States, especially this hot/wet time of year!
Check out these sources for more information on EEE, WEE and West Nile: