Dr. Ted Shope gives a horse vaccination for Easter Encephalitis at Bayou South Animal Hospital Friday. (Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 04, 2012 10:43 AM
An area veterinarian is urging horse owners in Southwest Louisiana to protect their animals from Eastern equine encephalitis, which has killed several horses in recent weeks.
Dr. Ted Shope of South Bayou Animal Hospital in Lake Charles said Friday he has seen more than a dozen cases of the mosquito-borne illness in the area in the past three weeks. Of those cases, only two horses are still alive, because they had been vaccinated, he said.
Disease cases and dead horses have been confirmed in Creole, Grand Cheiner, Reeves, south Lake Charles and eastern Jefferson Davis Parish, he said.
“I have seen a lot of sick and dying animals which have been diagnosed positive for Eastern encephalitis by this clinic and the LSU Diagnostic Lab,” Shope said.
He said horse owners should make sure their animals are vaccinated for mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.
“If you have a horse living in an outdoor environment and exposed to a large number of mosquitoes, you need to consider vaccinating it,” he said.
Vaccinations are available from area veterinarians or local feed or tractor supply stores for about $30.
Vaccinations are available for West Nile virus itself and for a combination of West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis and Western encephalitis. Shope recommends the combination vaccine.
“I know a guy in Ardoin Cove whose horse was positive for Eastern encephalitis, and he went to the store and bought the plain West Nile vaccine,” he said. “Five days later the horse was dead of Eastern encephalitis.”
The virus attacks the central nervous system of horses. Symptoms can include lethargy and inability to stand or walk.
“This is not something that is going to happen gradually,” Shope said. “It happens almost immediately. The horse can be feeling fine at feeding time last night and sick the next morning.”
If the horse has never been vaccinated, there is almost a 100 percent chance it will die, he said. Death usually occurs 48-72 hours after the first signs of illness.