The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is strongly advising horse owners to vaccinate their animals for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and the West Nile Virus (WNV). Recent rainfall from Hurricane Isaac could be problematic in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said, “We were concerned about the increased number of cases even prior to Hurricane Isaac. Louisiana was not experiencing the drought other areas of the country were dealing with and now with Isaac inundating parts of the state with water, those areas will be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Remember, horses are infected the same way humans are infected -- by being bitten by infected mosquitoes -- so everyone needs to take extra precautionary measures at this time.”

If a mosquito bites an infected bird, EEE or WNV can be spread to horses, dogs, cats and humans. The mosquito-transmitted diseases can cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

So far this year, the LDAF Division of Veterinary Health is reporting 33 EEE and 28 WNV cases in horses. In 2011, there were three cases of EEE and no cases of WNV reported in horses. Infected horses may show lethargy, weakness, paralysis or may even die. So far this year, nine humans have died from WNV.

Prevention includes avoiding mosquitoes, using mosquito repellants that are safe for horses and humans, and for horses, vaccination. So far, there is no vaccination approved for people. Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian regarding proper vaccination protocols during this time of increased risk.