EEE Horse Death Reported in Louisiana

Following the first confirmed case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) this year, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM, is reminding horse owners to vaccinate their horses. The affected horse died.

Strain said Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Baton Rouge identified EEE as the cause of death from blood samples drawn from the horse. The horse was stabled in Rapides Parish.

"Since there is no cure for Eastern equine encephalitis, I urge horse owners to vaccinate their animals," Strain said. "This is a very preventable disease, but often horse owners wait until it's too late.

"Only rarely do horses recover from Eastern equine encephalitis," Strain said. "Even when an animal doesn't die, it is almost always brain damaged and is never usable again."

Strain stressed the significance of reporting and testing suspected horses.

"This is a public health concern and we are asking all horse owners to make sure their animals have up-to-date vaccinations and to consult a veterinarian if their horses are displaying any symptoms.

"It's crucial because that information is passed quickly on to other health officials," he said. "With the public health concern over Eastern equine encephalitis and other mosquito-borne illnesses, our animal health officials are an important link to the state and nationwide reporting systems."

State Veterinarian Henry Moreau, DVM, said EEE has a mortality rate of 90%. The disease causes encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, in both horses and humans. Humans and horses contract the disease from a mosquito that has bitten an infected bird. (Horses are dead-end hosts; a human or another horse cannot get EEE from an infected horse.)

Infected horses become depressed and uncoordinated, develop a sleepy appearance, walk in circles, and eventually collapse to the ground.

Horses that have not been vaccinated should have two doses administered about two weeks apart. Once the initial vaccination has been given, an annual booster is sufficient to maintain immunity.

Owners with horses displaying any of these clinical signs should contact their local veterinarian. Any suspected equine neuro-encephalitis case should be reported upon suspicion of clinical signs even if blood is not drawn.

The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is working with local veterinarians, horse owner groups, health officials, and local mosquito abatement programs to monitor the spread of the disease.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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