Troxler Encourages Horse Owners to Vaccinate Against EEE

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension
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Cases on the rise; mosquito-borne disease usually deadly to equine

RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services recently confirmed a sixth positive case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis for 2018. In the last month there have been confirmed cases in Richmond, Onslow, Duplin, Craven, and Carteret counties. Cases included equines with no records of vaccinations, not up to date on vaccinations or not vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian.

“Last year we didn’t reach six cases of EEE in the state until October,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The excess rain this year, or just an increase in mosquito population, could be attributing to the early onset of cases.

“EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord in equine and is usually fatal,” he said. “The disease is preventable by vaccination. If you haven’t already vaccinated your horses, mules, and donkeys, contact your veterinarian to make sure your animals are protected.”

Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions, and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

If your horses or other equine animals exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Troxler recommends that equine owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile virus. There is a combination vaccine for these two diseases that initially requires two doses, 30 days apart, for horses, mules, and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. Troxler recommends equine owners work with their veterinarian to develop an appropriate plan for booster vaccinations.

People, horses, and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

–Michael Neault, NCDA&CS