Virginia Horse Owners Urged to Vaccinate for WNV, EEE

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges all horse owners to ask their veterinarians for West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) vaccination recommendations for their animals. An increased number of EEE cases occurred in Virginia in 2009, but the number of equine WNV cases dropped in comparison to the last couple of years. State officials are concerned that horse owners may be lulled into inaction by the lack of disease activity.

"We have had some unusual weather patterns in the last year, including heavy rain over much of the state," said Dr. Joseph Garvin, program manager for VDACS' Office of Laboratory Services. "How that affects the overall mosquito population as well as levels of EEE and WNV viruses in those mosquitoes is hard to predict. The bottom line is, these vaccines are very safe and effective, and we believe that in most cases, private veterinarians will recommend them for their clients. Horse owners need to be aware that the vaccines require boosters every six to 12 months."

In an area where these diseases occur frequently, such as southeast and Tidewater Virginia, most veterinarians recommend vaccination every six months. Other prevention methods include destroying standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, using insect repellents, and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn.

For more information, contact the Office of the State Veterinarian, Division of Animal Industry Services, VDACS, at 804/786-2483 or at http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/animals/diseases.shtml. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians for further advice on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

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