Public Health Officials Say Horses Should be Vaccinated For EEE and West Nile Virus

The warmer weather means spring is finally here, but it also means mosquito season is around the corner. Public health officials in New England are urging horse owners to begin vaccinating their animals now for mosquito borne illnesses like West Nile Virus and the more serious Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).

Massachusetts state veterinarian Catherine Brown says these diseases can be fatal.

“Unlike in humans, there are good vaccines available for animals,” Brown says. “So it’s a reasonable recommendation to encourage horse owners to vaccinate their animals to protect them from these diseases which we know will occur at some point this summer.”

Brown says although a vaccine was developed for humans, it’s for experimental use only, which is why people should take precautions against mosquito bites such as wearing long sleeves and using insect repellent.

Last year, nine people and six horses were diagnosed with a mosquito-borne illness in Massachusetts. Symptoms of West Nile Virus can range from a mild fever to severe muscle weakness but it rarely causes death, while EEE has a 40 percent fatality rate.

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