SmartPak Monday Morning Feed: Equine Encephalitis

You vaccinate for equine encephalitis already… but do you know how it’s transmitted, how to recognize symptoms and how to treat it? Learn more about equine encephalitis from SmartPak.

Equine Encephalitis: Eastern (EEE), Western (WEE), and Venezuelan (VEE)

What is Encephalitis?

Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Encephalitis or “sleeping sickness” are viral infections of the brain and spinal cord in horses that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Eastern Equine Encephalitis or “Triple E” is seen mostly in the eastern half of the United States, with the majority of the 116 cases reported in 2016 originating from Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Louisiana. EEE is the most serious of the three diseases, with a fatality rate of nearly 90%. As the name suggests, Western Equine Encephalitis or WEE occurs mostly in states west of the Mississippi and its mortality rate is much lower, near 50%. Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE) primarily strikes in Central and South America; a case has not been reported in the U.S. in 40 years.

Signs and Symptoms

Like many infections, Eastern and Western sleeping sickness initially cause listlessness, lack of appetite, and fever, but in less than a day a horse with either disease will show neurologic signs such as:

  • changes in behavior (drowsiness, hyperexcitability, and/or apprehension)
  • incoordination and a weak, staggering gait
  • muscle twitches of the head, neck, shoulder, and flank
  • cranial nerve deficits which may include a head tilt, droopy lip, muzzle deviation, blindness, an inability to swallow
  • circling and/or pressing the head against walls and into corner

Signs quickly progress to partial or complete paralysis, an inability to rise, convulsions, and death in some cases.

Learn more about diagnosis, treatment and prevention tips in the rest of the blog at SmartPak.

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