An increase in Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) cases in horses has prompted the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to warn owners to vaccinate their horses.

“The rain we’ve been having creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites an infected bird, Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile can be spread to horses, dogs, cats even alligators and, of course, humans,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain.

The mosquito-transmitted diseases can cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

So far this year, the LDAF Office of Veterinary Health is reporting eight WNV and 10 EEE cases in horses.

“Horses are infected the same way humans become infected, by being bitten by infected mosquitoes,” said Strain. “We want people to also be mindful of mosquitoes and to take preventative measures to stay safe.”

Infected horses may show lethargy, weakness, paralysis or even death.

Prevention includes avoiding mosquitoes, using mosquito repellants that are safe for horses and humans, and vaccination for horses. So far, there is no vaccination approved for people.

Ten cases of WNV have been reported in humans so far this year. “We need to follow the One Health concept in which we battle these deadly diseases together in an effort to keep humans and animals safe,” added Strain.

Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian regarding proper vaccination protocols during this time of increased risk.