Katrina Increases Gulf Coast Mosquito Population; WNV Outbreak Not Expected

The mosquito population of the Gulf Coast's hurricane-affected areas is expected to increase at a staggering rate, according to Joe Conlon, spokesman of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). However, he added that the possibility of a West Nile virus (WNV) epidemic is unlikely.

"We are not looking for a spike in WNV or Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) cases, but we have been wrong before," Conlon said.

William Jeter, DVM, chief of the Florida Bureau of Animal Disease Control, agrees that a dramatic increase in disease cases probably won't occur. "The mosquito population will be up, but there are several other factors that must be present along with an increase in mosquito populations in order for outbreaks to occur," he explained. "However, there is always an increased risk of equine encephalitic diseases when mosquito populations increase."

Flood-impacted horses went for weeks with little to no food or water, and their stress levels are very high, Jeter said. Vaccinating unprotected horses now will not be harmful, but under stressful conditions the effectiveness of the vaccine is questionable and he recommends owners consult with their local veterinarians.

Jeter said he is more concerned about an increase in EEE cases. "The mortality rate of horses with WNV is typically 20-25%; however, the mortality rate in horses with EEE is 70-90%," he explained.

While the risk of a WNV outbreak still looms in the long term, experts believe the biggest threat will be the exponential growth in the mosquito population, which could be an overwhelming nuisance to humans and animals. For more information, see www.TheHorse.com/emag.aspx?id=6155.

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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