West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis found in St. James Horse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 2010


BATON ROUGE – State agriculture officials confirmed Tuesday that a horse on a St. James farm contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.

Agriculture and forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said the viruses were found in a three-year-old mare on July 12. He said officials at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Baton Rouge confirmed the presence of both viruses in the horse and said the horse was euthanized. It is the first reported case of the diseases in the parish this year.

“Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus are very preventable diseases,” Strain said. “All horse owners should keep their equine vaccinations up to date and consult a veterinarian if their animals are displaying any unusual neurological symptoms.”

Strain said horse owners, at a minimum, should vaccinate against tetanus, EEE, Western equine encephalitis, West Nile virus and rabies. The viruses affect the brain and symptoms could include depression, lack of coordination, walking in circles, facial twitching and other neurologic anomalies.

“An infected horse eventually collapses to the ground,” Strain said.

Strain said equine owners with horses displaying any of these symptoms should contact their local veterinarian and said veterinarians should also report all cases to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Veterinary Health Office.

Strain said Agriculture and Forestry is working with local veterinarians, horse owner groups, health officials and local mosquito abatement programs to monitor the spread of the mosquito-borne diseases. He said residents in St. James and surrounding areas should take precautions to avoid exposure to mosquito bites.