Unusual weather patterns have recently had devastating consequences on regions across the country, from severe flooding in the wake of Hurricane Irene and other tropical storms, to catastrophic droughts and wildfires across the Southwest.
Several states along the East Coast and in the Southeast have reported record rainfall. Saturated ground and regional flooding is causing problems with standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Animal health experts warn that fatal cases of eastern equine encephalomyelitis and West Nile are being reported in numerous states.
To help prevent the spread of additional cases, Pfizer Animal Health is strongly encouraging horse owners and veterinarians to follow the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) guidelines for vaccinations against mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile, as well as eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis.
?Historically, eastern equine encephalomyelitis has primarily been reported in the south and southeastern parts of the country,? says Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, Equine Veterinary Services at Pfizer Animal Health. ?However, in 2010 we saw a rise in cases of mosquito-borne diseases across the northern states, including New York, Michigan and Maine3. Eastern equine encephalomyelitis and West Nile cases once again are being reported to health officials, therefore we encourage horse owners to take preventative measures and get their horses vaccinated.?
According to the United States Geological Survey, 37 cases of eastern equine encephalomyelitis have been confirmed1. Eleven of those were reported in New York state, where areas are still recovering from devastating flooding after Hurricane Irene hit the region on August 27-281. Similarly, as of September 20, there have been 46 cases of West Nile reported in 21 states, from California to Texas to North Dakota and New York.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners says that eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, western equine encephalomyelitis virus and West Nile virus are considered core vaccinations for horses, along with tetanus and rabies4. Though annual vaccinations should happen in early spring, AAEP also recommends boosters after five or six months in areas with high mosquito exposure.
Pfizer Animal Health offers a trusted line of equine vaccines, including WEST NILE-INNOVATOR? and the Mosquito Shot (WEST NILE-INNOVATOR + EWT), which helps protect against eastern equine encephalomyelitis, western equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile and tetanus in a single vaccine. The WEST NILE-INNOVATOR vaccines, along with other Pfizer Animal Health equine vaccine combinations, are included in the Equine Immunization Support Guarantee (ISG).
The Pfizer Animal Health Equine Immunization Support Guarantee program provides up to $5,000 for reasonable diagnostic and treatment costs if a horse properly vaccinated by a veterinarian contracts the corresponding equine disease. Disease protection backed by the Equine Immunization Support Guarantee includes infection from West Nile virus, equine influenza virus, tetanus, eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, western equine encephalomyelitis virus and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis virus. Vaccinations must be performed by a licensed veterinarian with an established client-patient relationship to be eligible.
In addition to vaccinations, experts advise reducing or eliminating standing water around the farm. A few effective steps to remove standing water include disposing of any old tires, buckets, cans, or anything laying around that can collect water5. Turn wheelbarrows over when not in use. Clean debris from rain gutters and stock ponds or wading pools with mosquito-eating fish5. Fill or drain ditches and swampy areas and other soil depressions5. Eliminate standing water and seepage around watering troughs. Also, it’s a good idea to clean buckets and watering troughs frequently and refill with fresh water.
?When there is this much rain and flooding, eliminating standing water can be challenging,? Dr. Hankins says. ?It’s important as horse owners to manage what we can, while working with a veterinarian to ensure the horses are current on their vaccinations.?