For Immediate Release - May 08, 2014

State Agriculture Officials Remind Horse Owners to Vaccinate Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases

BOSTON – Thursday, May 8, 2014 – With the mosquito season approaching, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) are advising horse owners to take preventative measures to protect animals against mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

DAR reminds horse owners that annual vaccinations should be administered during this time of year to ensure animals are protected prior to the peak arboviral season beginning in late July and August. Owners are urged not to wait until positive cases are reported in their area, since it can take several weeks for an animal to be fully protected by a vaccine.

"It is important to stay a step ahead of these diseases and administering vaccinations in a timely manner is the best way to protect our equine population," said DAR Commissioner Greg Watson.

WNV and EEE pose serious risks to horses and other equines, causing neurologic symptoms that can lead to death. There were two confirmed equine cases of WNV and four equine cases of EEE in 2013. Other animals such as pheasants, emus, llamas and alpacas can be affected as well. Owners should consult with a veterinarian regarding other at-risk species. Horses are not considered to play a role in the further spread of WNV or EEE.

In addition to vaccination, owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires and wading pools - especially after heavy rains. Water troughs may provide mosquito breeding habitat and should be cleaned periodically during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should consider keeping horses in indoor stalls during times of peak mosquito activity between dusk and dawn to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Use of approved repellents should also be considered.

If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

The State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board within the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources oversees mosquito control in Massachusetts. For more information call 617-626-1715 or visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/mosquito/index.htm

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance – the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth’s agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish.