With the mosquito season approaching, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) are advising horse owners to take preventative measures to protect animals against mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE).
DAR reminds horse owners that annual vaccinations should be administered during this time of year to ensure their animals are protected prior to the peak arboviral season beginning in late July and August. Owners are urged not to wait until positive cases are reported in their area, since it can take several weeks for an animal to be fully protected by a vaccine.
"It is important to stay a step ahead of these diseases and administering vaccinations in a timely manner is the best way to protect our equine population," said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson.
WNV and EEE pose serious risks to horses. Horses and other equines infected by EEE and WNV develop neurologic symptoms that can lead to death. Horses are not considered to play a role in further spread. Other species such as pheasants, emus, llamas, and alpacas can be affected as well. Owners should consult with their veterinarian regarding other at-risk species. One equine case of WNV and one equine case of EEE were confirmed in 2011.
In addition to vaccination, owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools - especially after heavy rains. Water troughs may provide mosquito breeding habitat and should be cleaned periodically during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should consider keeping horses in indoor stalls during times of peak mosquito activity between dusk and dawn to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Use of approved repellents should also be considered.
If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800
The State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board within the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources oversee mosquito control in Massachusetts. For more information call 617-626-1777 or visit, http://www.mass.gov/agr/mosquito/index.htm