Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., is warning owners to vaccinate their horses. So far in 2016, five horses have died as a result of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Beautiful horses
Public domain image/Dusan Bicanski

“While the horses may have been vaccinated in the past, none seem to be up to date on their vaccinations,” said Strain.

Four of the horses were located in Tangipahoa Parish. The fifth horse was in Washington Parish.  While there are no reports of West Nile Virus (WNV) in horses at this time, that is also a threat.

“Horse owners need to be mindful of both Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile. The rain we have, especially at this time of year, is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites an infected bird, Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile can be spread to horses, dogs, cats and humans.”

The mosquito-transmitted diseases can cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Infected horses may show lethargy, weakness, paralysis, neurological symptoms and death. Prevention includes avoiding mosquitoes, using mosquito repellants that are safe for horses and humans, and vaccination for horses.

So far, there is no vaccination approved for people. Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian regarding proper vaccination protocols during this time of increased risk.