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State vet urges horse owners to take precautions

Staff Reports • Oct 18, 2017 at 2:00 PM

NASHVILLE– The state veterinarian announced Friday three new cases of horses sickened by viruses that infect the blood.

A horse in Davidson County and a horse in Knox County recently tested positive for West Nile Virus. A horse in Bedford County tested positive for equine infectious anemia. Sick horses cannot directly infect people with WNV or EIA.

“We think about the summer as being bad for biting insects, but the risk carries well into the fall,” said state veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher. “Horse owners need to be vigilant, take preventive measures, and practice good animal husbandry to protect their livestock year-round.”

For WNV, mosquitoes and other biting insects are responsible for transmission. Symptoms in horses may include fever, weakness, loss of appetite or convulsions. The illness is treatable and the WNV vaccine for equines is particularly effective.

EIA is commonly transmitted through biting insects or sharing needles. Symptoms in horses may include fever, weakness, swelling, loss of appetite or colic. However, an infected horse may not show any clinical signs. There is no treatment or vaccine. Once infected, a horse must be permanently quarantined or euthanized. State law requires an annual Coggins test to check for the presence of EIA before any horse is taken from its home farm to a different location.

Hatcher advised horse owners to consult with their veterinarians to establish a schedule for vaccines and Coggins tests. 

Other tips include:

• avoid co-mingling horses with other, unfamiliar horses.

• never share needles, dental or surgical equipment among different animals.

• eliminate standing water sources where insects may gather and breed.

• manage manure and disposal.

• apply fly sprays and insect repellants as needed.

The C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory offers a full line of equine disease testing, including WNV, EIA, equine herpes virus, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis and equine influenza virus. Contact a veterinarian for more information.

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