RICHMOND (WSLS 10) - Health leaders are urging pet owners to prepare for the mosquito season.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says dog and horse owners should consider vaccinating their animals against mosquito-borne illnesses.
Read the full release below.
Control Mosquitoes to Protect Horses and People
Mosquito season has begun, although with cooler than normal temperatures in many parts of the state, activity is still light. When it warms up, the mosquitoes will get more active very quickly, so it's time for horse-owners to think about vaccinating their horses against mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
The presence of an infected horse in the area indicates that mosquitoes carrying the EEE or WNV viruses are present, and those insects pose a threat to both humans and horses. Therefore, in addition to vaccination, everyone needs to think about mosquito control to keep down populations.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges all horse owners to check with their veterinarians for vaccination recommendations for their animals. WNV and EEE vaccines are effective for six to twelve months, so horses should be re-vaccinated at least annually. In areas where the disease occurs frequently, most veterinarians recommend vaccination every six months. For the vaccine to be effective, it must be handled and administered properly and be given at least two weeks before the horse is exposed to the virus. To stimulate full immunity, horses must be vaccinated twice, about 30 days apart, the first year they are vaccinated.
With the Zika virus rampant in many countries, people are thinking more than ever about mosquito control this year. "That's a good thing," said State Veterinarian Charles Broaddus, "as long as that thought translates into the action of controlling mosquitoes."
According to the Virginia Department of Health, Zika is most commonly transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegyptii), but the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can also transmit it. Both of these mosquito species circulate in Virginia, with Asian tiger mosquitoes being the most common nuisance mosquito here. Therefore, there is a risk of Zika virus being imported into Virginia and being transmitted by local mosquitoes during mosquito season.
Dog heartworm is another common mosquito-borne disease and dog owners should use medication to protect dogs. Veterinarians can recommend the best preventative measure against this disease.
Mosquito control methods include destroying standing water breeding sites, using insect repellents, removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn, and turning off the lights in and around the barn at night. The Virginia Department of Health offers these three tips regarding standing water, the prime breeding site for mosquitoes: Tip. Toss, and Cover.
For more information on WNV or EEE, contact the Office of Veterinary Services at VDACS, at 804.786.2483 or see vdacs.virginia.gov/animals-animal-health.shtml. Horse and dog owners should contact their veterinarians for further advice on prevention, diagnosis and treatment.