By Kevin Hankins, senior field veterinarian, Pfizer Animal Health
Any preventative health program should begin with core vaccinations, such as those recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). The organization’s guidelines state that Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile, Tetanus and Rabies are considered core vaccinations for horses. Horses in high risk groups, such as those that are competing and traveling, or those that live in an area that has prolonged mosquito activity may benefit from vaccinations against risk-based diseases such as Equine Influenza Virus (FLU) and Equine Herpes Viruses 1 & 4 (EHV 1&4), which can cause serious respiratory disease.
With a recent rise in cases of mosquito-borne diseases, regular vaccinations for horses are necessary to help prevent the spread of diseases such as West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Unvaccinated horses are at serious risk of contracting mosquito-borne illnesses, even in areas where the disease may not be common. In 2010, states such as Florida that monitor the development of mosquito-borne diseases through sentinel chickens saw an upsurge in the detection of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus. Though Eastern Equine Encephalitis typically appears in the southern and southeastern parts of the country, Michigan and Massachusetts reported multiple cases of the disease. Reported cases of West Nile have also been on the upswing in Florida and California and the disease is considered to be endemic in all areas of North America by the AAEP.
Through a comprehensive vaccination protocol, horse owners can reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission to their horses. Horse owners should work with their veterinarian to determine a vaccination strategy that provides the best level of protection, particularly for horses that compete or reside in areas with a high prevalence for these diseases.