EEE kills two Wisconsin horses | TSLN.com

EEE kills two Wisconsin horses

Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis is a disease spread via mosquitos that can affect horses, humans, and birds. Photo courtesy of Kara Gebhardt-Tessman, DVM

Earlier this month two horses were reported to have died of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis in western Wisconsin. The disease is transmitted via mosquitos and is battled primarily by vaccinations prior to being exposed.

One horse, a two-year-old Quarter Horse filly, received positive test results and died within 24 hours, said Kara Gebhardt-Tessman, DVM of Tomah Large Animal Veterinary Care, in Tomah, Wisconsin. The other horse, a three-year-old Clydesdale mare died within 12 hours of clinical signs.

Neither mare was vaccinated in the year prior to its death, reports said.

While mosquitos are less prevalent in the Tri-State Livestock News primary readership area, this can be a concern with areas of lingering mosquitos or when they reappear in the spring.

“I have seen West Nile in October in our area. The symptoms of all the sleeping diseases, which are EEE, WEE, and WN, usually form as neurological, like stumbling, incoordination, tilting head to one side, being wobbly, spinning in a circle one way, they get down and can’t get up, are paralyzed, or even die. There is a great deal of pressure on the brain and the horses can be really difficult to deal with because they are unstable.”Dr. Erica Koller, South Dakota veterinarian

Dr. Erica Koller, of Cheyenne River Animal Hospital in Edgemont, South Dakota, recommends that though cases of EEE or similar neurological diseases, such as Western Equine Encephalomilitis or West Nile, are rare, they can occur. Generally, she said, vaccinations for those diseases are conveniently administered via three- or five-way vaccines.

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Those who travel with their horses to eastern and southern states, or horses from those states for shows or pleasure can transmit the neurological diseases via mosquitos.

Koller's recommendation is that owners administer a three- or five-way once each spring for adult horses; foals may be vaccinated at six months of age and can receive a booster within the first year of age.

"I have seen West Nile in October in our area," Koller said. "The symptoms of all the sleeping diseases, which are EEE, WEE, and WN, usually form as neurological, like stumbling, incoordination, tilting head to one side, being wobbly, spinning in a circle one way, they get down and can't get up, are paralyzed, or even die. There is a great deal of pressure on the brain and the horses can be really difficult to deal with because they are unstable."

Koller said that horses can survive these diseases, though if they do, there is lasting brain effects. The best way to prevent such cases is to vaccinate.

"We use a vaccine, which is a replication of the virus we're trying to prevent. It's a modified live organism and the body responds like a natural infection," Koller said. "The body creates anogen titers that, when introduced, the body will have a memory of."

Koller couldn't say how many cases of each of the sleeping diseases she has encountered, often because blood tests are not performed due to financial restraints, improvement, or death. She said rabies fits the list of concerns when such diseases are apparent and must be considered, mostly because it is such a big issue for human safety.

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