Randall Weiseman Alabama, Equine, Florida, General, Georgia, Livestock

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is sending out an early reminder to horse owners to vaccinate their animals for mosquito-borne diseases, especially in the northern parts of the state which have received significant rain.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) are the two major equine diseases animal health officials are concerned about. The heavy rain and flood conditions have left standing water in many areas of North Florida, providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the diseases.

As of April 15, there are six confirmed cases of EEE and no cases of WNV.
Four of the EEE cases affected horses that had not been vaccinated, one was an incomplete vaccination, and it isn’t known if the horse was vaccinated in the sixth case. The impacted horses are in Volusia, Gilchrist, Levy, Lake and Flagler counties.

The number of cases is down from last year and Bronson wants to ensure that the downward trend continues. Last year at this time there were 12 cases of EEE; however, peak season for transmission of these diseases occurs during the summer months. With the recent rains, this year could be worse than average.

“With the potential for a jump in the mosquito population after floodwaters recede, I think it’s prudent to urge horse owners now to get their animals vaccinated,” Bronson said. “These vaccinations are crucial for preventing the contraction of these serious, deadly diseases.”

EEE is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the virus include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma and usually death. The disease is fatal in horses in 90 percent of the cases.

Bronson says the majority of cases of EEE and WNV can be prevented through proper vaccinations against mosquito-borne illnesses and he is reminding horse owners that now is the time to take action. Horse owners are urged to check with their veterinarian to make sure their animals have received current vaccinations and booster shots against WNV and EEE, and that these shots are kept up to date.