Rare virus detected in Lanark County horse

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Rare virus detected in Lanark County horse
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark County Public Health officials say there is one confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus in the Lanark County – Aug 3, 2023

While there’s no reason to panic, Lanark County horses have had their ears perk up this week.

On Wednesday, the Leeds, Grenville, Lanark District Health Unit sent out a notice that there was a case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, or EEEV, detected in the Lanark County area.

“EEEV can be fatal in horses, it’s transmitted by mosquitoes, so, they’re all around, especially this time of year,” said Kerri Griffin, a longtime horse owner and equestrian.

Griffin has been handling horses for over a decade now, and she said the news, while not completely alarming, does raise concern.

“It is concerning, it is show season right now, so horses are on trailers going to and from different barns, locations, fairgrounds,” she added.

Doctor Linna Li, medical officer of health for the Leeds, Grenville, Lanark District Health Unit said the mosquito-born illness poses a very low risk to people.

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“The risk, I would say, is low, in fact, probably exceedingly low,” said Li.

Doctor Phil Ball, who works out of Kingston at St. Lawrence Veterinary Services echoed Doctor Li’s thoughts.

“Within the last 12 years, Ontario has 38 confirmed cases province-wide, so, not a super common thing but it is definitely in the area and we get positive cases that pop up occasionally,” said Ball.

Despite the low chance of spread and infection, outcomes can be quite serious for horses if they’re infected.

“Fatality rates can go 50 to 76 per cent in an unvaccinated horse. Vaccines are highly effective and are a common part of the vaccines that we give to horses,” said Ball.

“If they contract it, they can have trouble breathing, they can be in lots of pain, and eventually it can just lead to a full, complete shutdown,” said Griffin.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Though vaccinations aren’t available for people, they are for horses.

Griffin, Ball and Li all say there’s plenty of easy ways to keep you, and your horse, safe.

“Just making sure your vaccinations are up to date, talk to your vet if you haven’t got vaccinated yet,” said Griffin.

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“Bug spray, environmental things like keeping standing water cleaned up,” added Ball.

“The best way to prevent infection is really to prevent mosquito bites,” said Li.


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