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State veterinarian urges vaccination of S.C. horses

With the return of the mosquito-borne disease season, Boyd Parr, S.C. state veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health, urges horse owners to maintain current vaccinations for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile virus and rabies for their horses.

South Carolina led the country in 2013 with 49 confirmed cases of EEE, a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses that can also affect humans. The number of EEE cases reported last year fell to just seven, in large part thanks to vaccinations, Parr said.

“In South Carolina we routinely see EEE cases reported as early as June, making now a good time to vaccinate or for a booster on previously vaccinated horses,” Parr said. “We think the value of vaccinating was shown by the significant reduction in cases this past year as many more horse owners decided to vaccinate their horses after EEE took its toll in 2013.”

EEE in horses is preventable by vaccination. Parr said horse owners should consult with a veterinarian to be sure vaccinations against both EEE and West Nile virus are up to date. Most horses that succumb to one of these infections are not properly vaccinated.

The EEE virus is maintained in nature through a cycle involving the freshwater swamp mosquito, Culiseta melanura, commonly known as the blacktailed mosquito.  Two to three days after becoming infected with EEE virus a mosquito becomes capable of transmitting the virus. Infected mosquitoes can transmit the disease when they bite horses and humans.

Symptoms usually develop in horses from two to five days after exposure. Symptoms of EEE infection in horses include stumbling, circling, head-pressing, depression or apprehension, weakness of legs, partial paralysis, the inability to stand and muscle twitching. Nine of every 10 horses infected with EEE virus die from the disease.

Any livestock, including horses, that display neurologic signs, such as stumbling, circling, head-pressing, depression or apprehension, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 803-788-2260 within 48 hours, according the state law

Courtesy Clemson