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South Carolina horses at at risk from deadly viruses that emerge with mosquitoes this time of year. However, effective vaccines can save their lives and help keep the diseases from spreading.Image Credit: Clemson Public Service and Agriculture
COLUMBIA — A five-milligram mosquito can slay a 1,000-pound horse in a matter of days. All it needs is the right virus.
But with your help, the horse can survive the attack. All you need is the right vaccine — at the right time.
Now’s the time.
“Last year in South Carolina, we had 10 cases of West Nile Virus in horses and another nine of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE),” said Sean Eastman, director of field services for the Animal Health Programs branch of Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health.
“These diseases have a very high mortality rate in exposed, unvaccinated horses — between 30 and 40 percent for West Nile and 90 percent for EEE,” Eastman said. “With the emergence of mosquitoes and the appearance of these viruses in nearby states, proper vaccination for horses is essential.”
West Nile and EEE are transmitted to horses by mosquitoes, often the black-tailed mosquito, Culiseta melanura, which is a scourge from Maine to Mexico. Reducing mosquito populations around the farm is a good first step, but only vaccination can prevent the disease from developing once a tiny infected assassin buzzes into the barn.
Livestock-Poultry Health, a regulatory arm of Clemson’s Public Service and Agriculture unit, recommends at least annual vaccinations for both Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus and rabies in consultation with the owner’s veterinarian. A diagnosis or symptoms suggesting any of these diseases are required to be reported to the state veterinarian’s office within 48 hours.
“These diseases can quickly get out of hand if we don’t vaccinate horses,” said Boyd Parr, state veterinarian and Livestock-Poultry Health director. “The best defense is for owners to …