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RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
THREE HORSES IN WASHINGTON
COUNTY SUSPECTED OF CONTRACTING MOSQUITO-BORNE VIRUSES
||September 5, 2003
||Dr. Chris Hannifan 222-4700 ext.
Ken Ayars 222-4700 ext. 4500
DEM Urges Public to Take Extra Care to
Avoid Mosquito Bites
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has been
notified of three suspected cases of encephalitis in horses in Rhode
Island. All three horses are from Washington County and are being
investigated for possible West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine
Encephalitis (EEE) infections. One horse died, one had to be
euthanized, and one is alive and responding to treatment. If
confirmed, these infections would represent the first equine cases of
viral encephalitis in Rhode Island this season, and would also
indicate the presence of WNV or EEE, or both, in mammal-biting
mosquitoes in the area.
To date this year, twenty birds and one mosquito pool have tested
positive for WNV, and one bird has tested positive for EEE. Those
findings have come from four of the five counties in Rhode Island. The
positive test results, coupled with the suspected horse infections and
the fact that August through October is the peak season for mosquito
transmission, mean that the public should be extra careful - both in
terms of protecting their livestock and themselves.
"Horses tend to be more exposed to mosquitoes than people," says Dr.
Alan Gettman, DEM's Mosquito Abatement Coordinator, "but people can
put themselves at risk if they fail to guard against mosquito bites."
Final confirmation of the suspected horse infections is expected to
take seven to ten days. In the meantime, DEM will be setting extra
mosquito traps in the areas where the horses resided.
Both WNV and EEE are potentially fatal to horses, as well as humans,
birds, and other species. The infection is spread through the bite of
infected mosquitoes and has an incubation period up to seven days in
horses. Symptoms in horses are primarily neurological and include
weakness, incoordination, stumbling, shaking, fatigue, lack of
appetite, fever, collapse, and death. Prompt treatment by a
veterinarian can be effective, with unvaccinated animals at the
highest risk for severe symptoms and fatalities.
Mosquito control and prevention, for animals and humans, is essential
in order to reduce the risk of mosquito exposure. Prevention through
regular vaccination of horses, as well as some birds such as emus,
raptors and parrots, is recommended and readily available from
veterinarians. Standing water in ponds, pools and containers is
capable of producing thousands of mosquitoes daily. Watering troughs,
buckets, pails, old tires and any locations where water collects
should be emptied regularly. Mosquito larvacides can be placed in
pools and ponds to prevent mosquito larva from hatching into feeding
adults. Animals and humans should limit outside activity during dawn
and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active. Insect repellants and
sprays should be used regularly and protective screening placed on all
windows or doors to prevent exposures. Blankets on horses and
protective clothing on humans will minimize the opportunity for
mosquito bites. DEM's Division of Agriculture has distributed to the
cities and towns larvacide treatments for placement in storm drains,
culverts and water basins in order to prevent the hatching of adult
mosquitoes from these common breeding grounds.
Horse owners who would like more information should contact their
veterinarian, or they can call the state veterinarian, Christopher
Hannafin, DVM, at DEM's Division of Agriculture at 222-2781 ext. 4503.
For more information about WNV and EEE, tips on personal protection,
and updates from the State's mosquito monitoring program, call the
Department of Health's Family Health Information Line at
1-800-942-7434, or visit
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