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Press Releases

May 15, 2023
Vaccinations Help Protect Horses by Lowering the Risk of Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
Contact: Michael Wallace

As temperatures rise in Virginia, so does the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses for horses. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages horse owners to talk to their veterinarians about vaccinating their horses for West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

The mortality rate with WNV is 30 percent, and up to 90 percent with EEE. There is no proven cure for these diseases, but veterinarians can provide supportive therapy to treat symptoms and keep horses from injuring themselves.

“Both the WNV and EEE vaccine are highly effective in minimizing disease, if given appropriately. Vaccinations are effective for six to 12 months and must be given at least two weeks before the horse is exposed to the virus,” said Dr. Charles Broaddus, VDACS State Veterinarian.

Humans cannot become infected with EEE or WNV by handling an infected horse, nor can a horse acquire the virus directly from another infected horse. However, the presence of an infected horse in an area indicates that mosquitoes carrying EEE or WNV are present, and those insects pose a threat to both humans and horses.

Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to schedule the WNV and EEE vaccination. Other prevention methods include the following:
  • Dumping or draining standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, such as containers and puddles;
  • Using insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn;
  • Turning off the lights in and around the barn at night.

For more information on WNV or EEE, contact the VDACS Office of Veterinary Services at 804.786.2483 or go to www.vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-animal-health.shtml.

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