Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill today confirmed the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a 12-year-old grade mare from Van Buren County for 2013. The only Michigan case of EEE last year was in an eight-week-old puppy from the same county.
“This horse was never vaccinated against EEE and died after she developed severe swelling of the brain, her clinical signs were stumbling, depression, and blindness,” said Dr. James Averill. “Horse owners in Michigan’s southwestern counties should be especially aware of the risk and take extra measures to protect their animals.”
The highest concentration of the disease has historically been in Southwestern Michigan. Since MDARD began tracking the disease in 1980, Barry County has had 27 cases, Calhoun County: 22 cases; Cass County: 46; Kalamazoo County: 44; St. Joseph County: 59; and Van Buren County has had 26 EEE cases.
EEE is a zoonotic, viral disease, transmitted by mosquitoes to both horses and people, but also other animals. Other animals include, but are not limited to, birds such as pheasants, emu, ostriches, quail, and ducks, and the disease occasionally occurs in other animals such as reptiles, amphibians, and the puppy last year.
“In 2010, statewide there were 56 cases of EEE, and since then the cases have steadily declined – more than likely because Michigan veterinarians encourage EEE vaccinations as part of the spring horse vaccination protocol,” Averill said. “Vaccinating at any time against the virus is encouraged, even this late in the year.”
Mosquito management is vital in the prevention of EEE in horses. Owners should eliminate standing water by properly discarding old tires, filling ruts and pot holes, and removing water from tarps, pool covers, and other items where it may collect.
Changing water in bowls, buckets, troughs, bird baths, and wading pools at least once each week, especially during the warmer weeks of late summer, are just a few simple steps to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.
Additional practices to reduce mosquito exposure include:
• If you are able, keep pets indoors from dusk till dawn, when mosquitoes are out in full force.
• Horses can also be stabled during times when mosquitoes are most active. Placing fans to blow in stalls and on stabled horses will also help keep mosquitoes from landing and feeding.
• Finally, products are available to repel or kill fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies from dogs and cats, repellent sprays are available for livestock, and a vaccine against EEE is available for horses.
• Owners should consult a veterinarian on specific products and usage.