A report [prepared by E.S. Rusty Ford, Equine Programs Manager in the Office of State Veterinarian of Kentucky] has been provided via the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners. Following are condensed and edited portions of the report.
A 10-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse became ill. He was listless, very sleepy, and was reluctant to eat. The veterinarian was called to examine the horse and found him to be increasingly lethargic, unwilling to move. The horse exhibited a distinctive head tilt, had a mild muscle twitch, was feverish and refused food. During the next few hours, the horse’s condition worsened, and he developed seizures. Finally, the horse was no longer able to rise to his feet. He died on August 18.
The infected horse was stabled in Hart County and had not traveled within or outside the state. Nineteen other horses in the stable exhibited no clinical signs and were vaccinated on August 17.
According to a report issued by the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association, Murray State University’s Breathitt Veterinary Center (BVC) contacted the Kentucky State Veterinarian’s Office and reported testing conducted on the equine serum forwarded by the BVC to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory. The serum was reported as positive for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus IgM (antibody) by an ELISA assay.
The EEE diagnosis was verified, and confirmation was provided to the Cabinet for Health Services’ Department of Public Health in Kentucky on Friday evening. There have been no cases of West Nile in Kentucky for 36 months.
For horses, it is important to lessen exposure risk to both EEE and West Nile viruses by vaccinating them. Once it is known that a horse has contracted the virus, this should serve as a “barometer” that the disease is within the state and all necessary precautions should be taken.
For the year 2013 - through August 20 - the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 60 equine cases and three human cases of EEE diagnosed in the United States. This map shows the 2013 locations. http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/eee_us_veterinary.html
Symptoms for humans and horses associated with EEE include these clinical signs: fever, depression, lack of appetite and neurologic abnormalities including paralysis, inability or difficulty swallowing, sleepiness, and ataxia. For horses that come down with EEE, the fatality rate is high and ranges from 75 to 80 percent, with death following in a day or two.
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