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June 18, 2012

New York State Offers Discount EEE Vaccination Program for Horses

OSWEGO - There is still time for horse owners to get their horses vaccinated against the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases.

"Horses are particularly susceptible to the infection because they are outdoors and are fed upon by mosquitoes which can carry the virus," said Dr. David Smith, DVM, director of the Division of Animal Industry for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. "Horse owners should protect their horses against EEE and other arboviruses like the West Nile Virus (WNV) with a vaccination given before the start of mosquito season, but vaccinating now can still provide protection during the times of greatest risk."

Symptoms of the disease in horses vary greatly, ranging from barely noticeable to signs such as staggering, blindness, and unconsciousness. In horses showing visible signs of disease, 50 to 90 percent of cases may be fatal.

Vaccinations should be given by a licensed veterinarian to ensure that the vaccine used is effective and the injections are given correctly. The initial series includes two vaccinations given four to six weeks apart. Administered properly, the vaccinations are effective for one year. Follow-up boosters are required annually.

The New York State Senate has made limited funding available to provide $15 vaccination discounts to horse owners across the state through their veterinarians. Owners should contact their veterinarian for details. More information is also available online at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AI/vetpage/EEE_Vaccination_Rebate_Program_for_NY_Horses.pdf.

Horse owners can provide additional protection with the following precautions:

  • Bring horses inside the stable during peak periods of mosquito activity
  • Rub down the horse with fly and insect repellent wipes

The EEE virus builds over time through transmission cycles between wild birds and bird-biting mosquitoes. Mosquitoes such as the Culiseta melanura are the main carriers of the disease and may transmit it to horses and humans. While EEE is rare in people, when it does occur, the virus causes serious illness such as severe headache, high fever, disorientation, seizures, brain swelling or, in some cases, death.

The Oswego County Health Department reminds residents that the best defense again the EEE virus is to guard against mosquito bites by taking these personal protection measures:

  • Use insect repellent properly. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin are the most effective and should be used according to package instructions.
  • Whenever possible, limit outdoor activities in areas where mosquitoes are most active and between dusk and dawn which is the peak mosquito-biting time.
  • As weather permits, wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks. In addition, people can use these precautions to minimize mosquito populations in and around their homes and properties:
  • Install or repair all door and window screens.
  • Reduce or eliminate all standing water from old tires, pails, recycling containers, flower pots, wheelbarrows, wading pools and pool covers.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and horse troughs twice a week.

For a complete vaccination and booster schedule, contact your local veterinarian. To learn more about horse health visit the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets online at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AI/equine/equine.html.

For more information about the EEE virus and personal protection measures, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547, or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.ny.us.


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