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More Education Needed to Prevent Vector Borne Diseases in Horses

Columbia, South Carolina (PRWEB) August 28, 2013

As the confirmed cases of EEE in horses continues to increase this year, veterinarians all across South Carolina are working hard to control and prevent these fatal vector borne diseases.

Totals for confirmed cases of EEE hit 30, and just last week in Lancaster County, the first case of a horse with West Nile Virus was confirmed. These vector borne diseases have proven to be extremely dangerous with a fatality rate of 90-95%.

The EEE virus is carried and transmitted through a freshwater swamp mosquito, Culiseta Melanura, also referred to as the black-tailed mosquito. After the mosquito contracts EEE, it can take 2-3 days for them to feed on horses, birds, or humans and pass the virus along to them.

“Horses that are sick with EEE don't get sick from other horses that have EEE, they get sick from mosquitoes that are infected with EEE,” said Adam Eichelberger, DVM, Diplomate ACT, Clemson University director of animal health programs, and member of the board of directors of the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians.

“Preventative vaccines are very effective. Horses that have never been vaccinated or have an unknown vaccine history will have to be boostered four to six weeks after the first vaccine,” added Eichelberger. “The series of injections is required to be effective and protective. In South Carolina, we recommend that horses are vaccinated twice yearly (every six months) for Eastern-Western equine encephalomyelitis and West Nile virus. These vaccines usually come in single doses or multiple combinations known as EWT, EWT/WN or EWT/FR. The 'T' in the abbreviation is short for tetanus, which is also a very important vaccine for horses.”

Horses will usually show signs of EEE within 2-5 days of being infected with the virus. Symptoms may include depression or apprehension, weakening of the legs, loss of appetite, severe fever, incoordination and inability to swallow.

“Encephalitis means inflammation in the central nervous system, basically the horse's brain is inflamed,” said Eichelberger. “Inflammation of the brain leads to the horse becoming neurologic. Horses initially febrile (elevated temperature) often become depressed or sluggish. Another name for EEE is sleeping sickness.” As the vector borne diseases become more prevalent in horses, it becomes increasingly more important for horse owners and veterinarians to educate themselves on how to prevent these viruses.

The South Carolina Association of Veterinarians has scheduled a presentation on this topic at its annual conference in Charleston, SC. Equine viral encephalomyelitis with an emphasis on EEE, WEE and rabies is the title of this session that will be presented by Susan L. White, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, A professor at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. White will present this session on Friday, October 26th at the Charleston Marriott. For more information on the conference, please check out

Established in 1911, SCAV is a not-for-profit association representing veterinarians. The Association strives to advance the science and art of veterinary medicine by providing opportunities for professional education and development and by enhancing the relationships between veterinarians, agriculture, pet owners, government and the public at large; and to protect the public health by promoting proper involvement in human and animal health care by the veterinary profession.

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