September 20, 2020

Three horses contract rare, fatal disease in Louisiana

3 horses diagnosed with Eastern equine encephalitis

Louisiana officials say three horses have been diagnosed with Eastern equine encephalitis, and owners who haven’t done so need to get their horses vaccinated against the often fatal disease.

“Mosquitoes are out in force right now. The hot and wet conditions exacerbated by storms such as Hurricane Laura, increase the number of mosquitoes that could be carrying diseases,” Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said in a news release.

Two of the infected horses are in Lafourche Parish. The third is in Iberville Parish.

After Hurricane Laura, in some areas clouds of mosquitoes were so dense that their bites killed cattle, deer and a few horses. Livestock deaths from mosquitoes aren’t a new phenomenon. Dr. Craig Fontenot, a large-animal veterinarian based in Ville Platte, said they also occurred after Hurricane Lili in 2002 and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Florida and Texas have had similar problems after hurricanes, he said.

There isn’t any human vaccination.

But Strain said it’s not too late to vaccinate horses, donkeys and mules.

Strain said the disease is spread by mosquitoes which have bitten an infected bird, small mammal or reptile.

It can cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, weakness, loss of coordination and circling.