Mosquito vaccinations urged for horses

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their horses to protect the animals from mosquitos carrying the deadly West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Last year, Wisconsin had a record 24 confirmed cases of each virus.

“It’s very sad to see horses affected by these viruses when vaccination can usually prevent illness. (EEE) is fatal in approximately 90% of clinical cases and (WNV) is fatal in approximately 30% of clinical cases,” said Dr. Julie McGwin, DATCP equine program veterinarian. According to the Equine Disease Communication Center, the number of cases of EEE reported by southern states has increased more this year than the same time last year.

WNV and EEE may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Symptoms of encephalitis in horses include depression, appetite loss, drooping eyelids and lower lip, fever, weakness, twitching, paralysis or lack of coordination, aimless wandering, circling, and blindness. Horses may also go down, be unable to rise, exhibit seizures, or become unresponsive, especially with EEE, which can be fatal within 24 hours.

Horses that have never been vaccinated will need two doses of the vaccination initially, and then boosters at least annually. It takes at least two weeks to build up enough antibodies to protect the horse and the vaccine will not protect the horse if given after the horse is infected.

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