Horse owners advised to vaccinate for EEE, West Nile Virus

Horse owners are being advised to vaccinate their animals.
Horse owners are being advised to vaccinate their animals.

MONTGOMERY, AL – Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks announced that since late June six positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been found in Alabama and in adjacent counties in Mississippi and Florida.

"Heavy rainfall has made us extremely vulnerable to the spread of mosquito-borne viruses and we need to protect our livestock and ourselves," stated Sparks.  "I want to encourage horse owners to vaccinate their horses for both EEE and West Nile Virus as soon as possible."

EEE is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is much more severe than West Nile Virus (WNV).  The mortality rate in horses from WNV is reported at around 30%, while the rate for EEE is almost 90%.  Infected mosquitoes are the primary source for EEE.  The virus causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.  General symptoms include central nervous system signs such as: head pressing, convulsions, lack of response to facial stimulation, fever above 103 degrees, ataxia, paralysis, anorexia, depression, and stupor.  Other symptoms may include irregular gait, teeth grinding, in-coordination, circling, and staggering.  All symptoms may not be exhibited by an infected horse.

Commissioner Sparks and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier recommend vaccinating your horses every six months against both EEE and WNV.  Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian to schedule a vaccination for their horses.  The public is also advised to make every effort to reduce human exposure to mosquitoes during the hurricane season.

The four cases in Alabama were in the following counties: Escambia, Baldwin, Mobile, and Washington.

The Escambia County Heath Department resumed its mosquito surveillance program for 2010.  This program tests sentinel chickens for West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.  Mosquito-borne virus surveillance has been conducted throughout the state for the past five years.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Department of Agriculture