Temperatures are warming up and the sun is shining stronger, meaning summer is on the way.
But the changing season also means something else: Mosquitos.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is asking horse owners to vaccinate their horses against mosquito-borne illnesses, including the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Last year, there was only one case of confirmed West Nile Virus in a Virginia horse, and no cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, according to a Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services news release.
Horse owners can check with their veterinarian for advice on vaccinations, the release said.
“Both the WNV and EEE vaccine are highly effective in minimizing disease, if given appropriately,” said Dr. Charles Broaddus, State Veterinarian at VDACS, “and that could be the reason we saw so few cases last year. Without vaccination, we would see many more infected horses. In most cases, private veterinarians will recommend them for their clients.”
The mortality rate for West Nile Virus is 30 percent, and up to 90 percent for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the release said. Horses cannot pass the viruses directly to one another, and humans cannot catch them from handling horses.
Beyond vaccinating horses, owners can also prevent the spread of these diseases by dumping or draining standing water on their properties where mosquitos could breed, using mosquito repellent, keeping horses inside between dusk and dawn and turning lights out in the horse barn at night.