“This is the first case of both diseases in horses this year,” Strain said. “There has been a decrease in reported cases of West Nile fever since the disease first appeared on the scene in 2002 but at the same time, cases of EEE have gone up.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of vaccinating your horses for both diseases. That’s the key to preventing these illnesses and protecting your horses.”
More than 300 confirmed cases of West Nile fever were reported in 2002 in Louisiana. Since vaccine development, confirmed cases have averaged a little over 31 per year since 2003.
There were only 15 confirmed reported cases of EEE in the state in 2006 but the number jumped to 42 in 2007, Strain said. The EEE mortality rate was nearly 100 per cent.
St. Landry Parish attending veterinarian John Fontenot said the quarter horse in question survived the initial onslaught of West Nile fever and is recovering. Dr. Allison Barca of Orleans Parish said the gelding died of EEE.
Strain said the Culex mosquito infects horses with the West Nile fever flavivirus while EEE is spread by the Culiseta and Aedes mosquitoes. Neither disease is spread from horse to human.
A horse infected with West Nile virus may exhibit a variety of symptoms including colic, lameness, anorexia and fever. Initial signs include a mild low-grade fever, feed refusal, and depression, Strain said.
EEE symptoms include high temperature, depression, development of a sleepy appearance and walking in circles. The infected horse eventually collapses to the ground.
State Veterinarian Henry Moreau of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said horse owners should contact their local veterinarian for proper vaccination scheduling.
Any suspected cases of West Nile virus and EEE should be reported to the LDAF’s Office of Animal Health Services at 225-925-3980.