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Fall Equine Virus and Disease Concerns
 By Winniefield Park   •   20th Sep 2014   •   1,428 views   •   0 comments
Fall Equine Virus and Disease Concerns

While riding the other day, I noticed there were few bugs. The only thing I noticed were very small mosquitoes landing on my horse's neck. We tend to think of early summer as peak mosquito season. But the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus are more likely to be active in the late summer and early fall. There are a few viruses and other diseases that tend to be more predominant during this time of year.

West Nile Virus
The critter that carries this virus are most active when the summer heat begins to cool off. Birds like crows and jays carry the virus. When these birds are bit by Culex tarsalis, pipiens or quinquefasciatus, the mosquito picks up the virus. Mosquitoes inject a bit of saliva that thins blood into their victim when they bite. That saliva is what makes us itch. But if the mosquito is carrying WNV, they also inject the virus into their victim. The bird is the host of the virus, the mosquito is the vector, and a horse is a dead-end host, meaning the virus will not spread from horse to horse, horse to human, or horse to mosquito.

Related: 10 Diseases You Can Catch From Your Horse
Related: Top 10 Insects That Will Bite Your Horse
Related: Which Vaccinations Does Your Horse Really Need
Related: 2014 EHV-1 Symptoms and Outbreak Locations

Symptoms of WNV can include fever, fatigue, coordination problems, paralysis, and seizures. Some horses fully recover, with only a mild attack of the virus. For others it can be fatal or there will be lingering neurological problems. Prompt diagnosis can aid in a good outcome, and veterinary care will be essential. Preventing WNV includes reducing the mosquito population, and using the WNV vaccine for horses. The vaccine needs to be started before mosquito season begins. The AEEP now considers WNV a core vaccine that every horse should have.

Equine Encephalitis
Equine Encephalitis is making headlines again. Again mosquitoes are the vector. There are three varieties of EE-; Eastern, WEstern Venezuelan and The symptoms of EEE are similar to WNV, but horses are not dead end hosts. If a horse gets EE, it may get passed on to other horses or humans through mosquitos. The best prevention for EE is reducing and avoiding mosquitoes and vaccination, although vaccination is not a 100% guarantee against some forms of the infection.

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis isn't transferred by mosquitoes. the vector that carries EPM is the opossum. Opossums spread protozoa by soiling on hay or pasture grass. When the horse eats the grass or hay, the protozoa takes up residence in the horse's spinal column, creating lesions in the tissues that can lead to neurological damage. To rule out other diseases like WNV and EEE, a veterinarian will draw spinal fluid or blood to confirm the diagnoses. Treatment will include anti-microbial, anti-protozoal and anti-inflammatory drugs that can be very costly, and a successful outcome is not always guaranteed. Make your stable unattractive to opossums by keeping all feeds covered, consider putting up no-climb fencing and live-trapping any nuisance opossums who live in your barn. Unfortunately, there's no vaccine against EPM.
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