RICHMOND, Va. — As warmer temperatures return to Virginia, so does the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses for horses. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages horse owners to talk to their veterinarians about vaccinating their horses for West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
“The mortality rate for WNV is 30 percent and up to 90 percent for EEE. Vaccinations are effective for six to 12 months. Many veterinarians recommend vaccination every six months in areas where the disease occurs frequently,” said Dr. Carolynn Bissett, VDACS Interim State Veterinarian. “For the vaccine to be effective, it must be given at least two weeks before the horse is exposed to the virus. To stimulate full immunity, horses must be vaccinated twice, about 30 days apart, during the first year of vaccination.”
Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to schedule the WNV and EEE vaccination. Other prevention methods include dumping or draining standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, such as containers and puddles; using insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn and turning off the lights in and around the barn at night. The presence of an infected horse in the area indicates that mosquitoes carrying EEE or WNV are present and those insects pose a threat to both humans and horses.
For more information on WNV or EEE, contact the VDACS Office of Veterinary Services at 804.786.2483 or go to vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-animal-health.shtml.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS