North Carolina Horse Owners Urged to Vaccinate

Eastern equine encephalitis was confirmed in horses in a South Carolina county that borders North Carolina.
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North Carolina horse owners are urged to vaccinate their equids after Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) was confirmed in horses in Horry County, South Carolina, in the past three weeks. Horry County is the northern-most coastal county in South Carolina and borders Brunswick County, North Carolina.

“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” said State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, DVM.

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. There is no evidence that horses can transmit EEE to other horses or people through direct contact. Clinical signs of EEE include moderate to high fever, depression, lack of appetite, cranial nerve deficits (facial paralysis, tongue weakness, difficulty swallowing), behavioral changes (aggression, self-mutilation, or drowsiness), gait abnormalities, or severe central nervous system signs, such as head-pressing, circling, blindness, and seizures. The course of EEE can be swift, with death occurring two to three days after onset of clinical signs despite intensive care; fatality rates reach 75-80% among horses. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems.

Meckes recommended that horse owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from EEE and West Nile virus, another mosquito-borne disease. Vaccines have proven to be a very effective prevention tool. Horses that have been vaccinated in past years will need a booster shot annually or, in areas with mosquito activity that spans much of the year, every six months. Meckes recommends a booster every six months for North Carolina horses. If an owner did not vaccinate their animal in previous years, the horse will need the two-shot vaccination series within a three to six week period

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