Is It Too Late to Vaccinate My Horse?

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — SEPT. 25, 2012 — April Knudson, DVM, is an equine specialist with Merial Veterinary Services. She answers a question about vaccinating for common equine diseases.

Q. I’ve heard so many reports of mosquito-borne equine diseases this year but haven’t vaccinated my horse yet. Is it too late?

A. This year has been record-breaking in terms of both West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE). As of early September, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was reporting 181 equine cases of WNV in 33 states1 and 112 equine cases of EEE.2 Nationwide, the number of WNV cases reported in all species (mosquitoes, sentinels, humans and horses) is the highest it has been since 2004.3 These life-threatening diseases are out there, and the best way to help protect your horse is to vaccinate.

Even if you haven’t stayed current with your vaccination schedule, it isn’t too late. But be sure to talk to your veterinarian about using a vaccine that is fast-acting.

In the case of WNV in particular, recombinant vaccines such as Merial’s RECOMBITEK® rWNV-EWT, have been proven to be very effective in providing protection, even after a single dose.4 In a study, onset of immunity occurred in just 26 days after the initial dose.4 This quick immune response is important if your horse hasn’t already been vaccinated.

Since the best way to help protect your horse is to vaccinate, do it as quickly as possible. Both WNV and EEE can be life-threatening, with 33 percent of the horses that show clinical signs of WNV ultimately dying or being euthanized5 and 90 percent of those that show clinical signs of EEE dying.6

Horse owners should also remain aware of potential threats to equine health present in their communities. Merial’s free Outbreak Alert program tracks reported cases of WNV, EEE, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Equine Herpesvirus, rabies, equine influenza and Potomac horse fever around the country. Those who have signed up for the service receive texts and/or email messages notifying them of confirmed disease threats in their areas. Owners who travel with their horses can enter multiple ZIP codes in the site’s search field to help them stay abreast of disease threats throughout the country. There are also veterinarian-exclusive features available, including printable materials veterinarians can share with their clients.

Now through the end of 2012, in the Exclusive Offers section of outbreak-alert.com, horse owners can download a coupon for up to $8 off when they have their veterinarians vaccinate their horses.

To learn more about WNV, EEE and other equine diseases and vaccination guidelines, or to sign up for Outbreak Alert, visit outbreak-alert.com.

1 Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal Health Monitoring & Surveillance. 2012 West Nile Virus Equine Case Reports. Available at: http://www.aphis/usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/wnv/2012_equine_wnv_cases_updated_09042012.pdf. Accessed September 12, 2012.

2 Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal Health Monitoring & Surveillance. 2012 Eastern Equine Encephalitis Case Reports. Available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/ee/2012_equine_eee_cases_updated_09042012.pdf. Accessed September 12, 2012.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Press release. West Nile virus disease cases up this year. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/media. Accessed August 14, 2012.

4 Siger L, et al. Assessment of the efficacy of a single dose of a recombinant vaccine against West Nile virus in a response to natural challenge with West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes in horses. Amer Journ Vet Res. 2004;65(11):1459-1462.

5 Guidelines for the vaccination of horses: West Nile virus. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/wnv.htm. Accessed August 7, 2012.

6 Eastern/Western equine encephalomyelitis. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/eee_wee.htm. Accessed August 7, 2012.

7 RECOMBITEK rWNV-EWT product label.