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State ag. officials advise Delawareans to get their horses vaccinated in summer

If you own a horse, agriculture officials advise that you get it vaccinated from mosquito-borne diseases as soon as possible.


The Delaware Department of Agriculture says late summer is the best time for mosquito breeding, which means there will be plenty of mosquitos outside. 

That increases the chance of diseases like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis surfacing in humans and horses.


State Veterinarian Heather Hirst says owners should talk to their veterinarians about vaccinations.


“It may take several weeks for a horse’s immune system to mount a response to the disease after the vaccine is given so owners should have their horses vaccinated as soon as possible,” Hirst said.


The diseases can surface when a mosquito feeds on an infected bird and then bites a human or a horse. Horses cannot transmit the disease to other horses or people, the Department of Agriculture said.


Just last week, Delaware’s Division of Public Health found West Nile Virus in blood samples taken from chickens, but officials say Delaware has not yet seen this disease in horses or humans this year.


West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis can cause severe or fatal infections. The Department of Agriculture says signs of infection in horses may include fever, anorexia and muscle spasms in the head and neck.

Owners can protect their horses by keeping them inside during dawn and dusk — peak mosquito breeding hours. They should also clean and refill their water troughs and buckets every two to three days to remove any mosquito eggs that may be present. 

To learn more about West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis:

• Call the Delaware Division of Public Health, (888) 295-5156, or (302) 744-4990 to learn more about human health.

• Call the Delaware Department of Agriculture at (800) 282-8685 (Delaware only) or (302) 698-4500 and ask for the Poultry and Animal Health Section with animal health questions.

• Call the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Mosquito Control Section at (302) 739-9917 if you have questions about the state's mosquito control program.