Horse owners recommended to vaccinate

HARRISONBURG — With warmer weather and mosquito season on the horizon, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their animals against mosquito-borne illnesses.

State Veterinarian Charles Broaddus said horse owners should speak with their veterinarians about vaccination recommendations, according to a news release from the department Monday.

Owners should check the date of their animals’ most recent vaccinations against the West Nile virus, which can cause an inflammation of the central nervous system, and Eastern equine encephalitis, which can cause brain damage. Both are carried by mosquitoes.

Last year, there was one confirmed case of the West Nile Virus in a horse and no cases of Eastern equine encephalitis.

“Both the WNV and EEE vaccine are highly effective in minimizing disease if given appropriately, and that could be the reason we saw so few cases last year,” Broaddus stated in the release. “Without vaccination, we would see many more infected horses. In most cases, private veterinarians will recommend them for their clients.”

West Nile has a 30 percent mortality rate, while encephalitis’ is 90 percent, according to the release. While there isn’t a cure for the diseases, veterinarians can try to treat symptoms and keep the animals from injuring themselves.

Horses must be revaccinated every six to 12 months to ward off the diseases, according to the release. Those who live in areas with higher rates of infection should vaccinate their animals twice a year. To be effective, the shots must be administered at least two weeks before horses are exposed to the virus.

Animals that are vaccinated for the first time need two doses 30 days apart to be effective.

Owners also can take precautions to reduce the mosquito population by dumping or draining standing water, which the insects breed in, and using insect repellents. People should keep animals away from mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk when the insects are most likely to bite.

The diseases cannot be transmitted from a human to a horse or between horses, according to the release. However, an infected horse is a sign that infected mosquitoes are in the area and could threaten people or other animals.

Horse owners should also ask their vet about their animal’s last rabies vaccination and have the horse tested for equine infectious anemia, another disease transmitted by insect bites. Under state law, horses must have a report of an official negative test for equine infectious anemia before coming in contact with other horses on another person’s property or at a show, fair or race.

Contact Ellie Potter at 574-6286 or epotter@dnronline.com

More Information

Contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services veterinary services office at 804-786-2483 or visit vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-animal-health.shtml.