State veterinarian recommends vaccinating horses against EEE

After two dead horses in Franklin County tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), the state veterinarian has urged all horse owners to vaccinate their animals against the mosquito-borne disease. This is the first time there has been evidence of EEE in Franklin County.

EEE killed two Vermonters and two horses in Addison County in 2012. This year, no human cases of the virus have been reported to the Department of Health. Samples of mosquitoes that carry the virus have been found in several batches tested by the Department of Health this summer. The latest positive insects were trapped in Whiting, near Leicester and Brandon. Testing has been limited to batches from pools in Rutland and Addison counties and some towns in the northwestern part of the state.

Horses are especially susceptible to the EEE virus and an infected horse has a 75 percent to 90 percent mortality rate, said Kristin Haas, the state veterinarian.

“That’s why the vaccine is so important,” she said. “There are few other ways to protect horses.”

Some horse owners have already acted on the recommendations. Even though Rosemary Root, owner of New Horizons Horse Farm in Essex Junction, vaccinated her 30 horses for EEE this spring, she decided to give them a round of booster shots a couple of weeks ago.

“In light of the fact we had two horses die here in Vermont, people would be crazy not to be up on date with vaccines,” she said.

Mammals infected with EEE are considered “dead-end-hosts,” that means the virus cannot spread from animal to animal.

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  • Pat McGarry

    EEE is fatal in humans. No human vaccine exists, but an affordable vaccine for horses does exist. Why is the vaccine not mandatory? (mosquitoes can contract EEE from infected horses)

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