“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” said N.C. State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, DVM, in a statement. “It is imperative that horse owners keep their vaccines current. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating them as soon as possible against EEE and West Nile virus.”
For horses, mules, and donkeys with no prior vaccination history, the vaccination initially requires two shots given 30 days apart. Due to North Carolina’s prolonged mosquito season, Meckes recommends a booster shot every six months.
EEE is caused by viruses found in wild birds. Mosquitoes that feed on birds infected with EEE can transmit the disease to humans, horses, and other birds. Some birds can harbor the EEE viruses without becoming acutely ill, thereby serving as reservoirs for the disease. Horses don’t develop high enough levels of these viruses in their blood to be contagious to other animals or humans. Because of the high mortality rate for horses and humans, EEE is regarded as one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases in the United States.
Tips for preventing mosquito-borne diseases include:
- Avoid mosquito bites: Use insect repellent when outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn.
- Look for EPA-labeled products containing active ingredients, such as DEET, Picaridin (KBR3023), or oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane 3,8-diol).
- Apply more repellent, according to label instructions, if mosquitoes start to bite.
- Mosquito-proof homes: Fix or install window and door screens, and cover or eliminate empty containers with standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
- Protect your horses: The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends all horses receive vaccination against EEE annually or more frequently based on risk. It’s not too late this year to vaccinate your horses, NCDACS said in its statement.
- Use approved insect repellents to protect horses.
- If possible, put horses in stables, stalls, or barns during the prime mosquito exposure hours of dusk and dawn.
- Eliminate standing water, and drain water troughs and empty buckets at least weekly.
Seasonal activity varies from year to year, but mosquitoes carrying EEE remain a threat.
Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts more than four days, according to NCDACS, so you can reduce the chance of exposing your animals to West Nile virus and EEE by removing any source of standing water.
For more information visit the EEE topic page or search on TheHorse.com.