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Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Mon 8 Nov 2010
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette [edited]

Equine encephalitis toll reaches 133 in south west Michigan
The state has reported a final tally for one of the worst outbreaks of
eastern equine encephalitis in 30 years -- by veterinarians' counts 133
horses were stricken, with all but 4 killed by the mosquitoborne disease,
most in south west Michigan.

At 55 confirmed EEE cases, 2010 is tied with 1981 for having the 2nd
highest number on record, said Michigan Department of Agriculture State
Veterinarian Steven Halstead. In 1980, there were 93 confirmed cases. How
many unconfirmed cases occurred in those years is unclear, Halstead said.

Why the discrepancy between 133 dead horses this summer [2010] and the
official tally of only 55? It's not that the additional 78 cases are in
question, Halstead said. It's that laboratory testing to confirm the EEE
diagnosis was not conducted in the majority of the deaths.

Veterinarians, required to report diseases such as EEE, may base their
diagnoses on clinical signs alone -- neurological impairment and, usually,
death in the case of EEE. But for the diagnosis to be confirmed, brain
tissue samples must be submitted for laboratory testing.

It's up to the horse owner to pay for the test, which can cost as much as
USD 200. There's no requirement that it be done, but without testing, that
horse's death will not be counted among the "confirmed" cases.

That galls veterinarian Jim Connell of Town and Country Veterinary Hospital
in Allegan, who said an artificially low tally misrepresents the level of
threat and may have contributed to complacency among horse owners.

An effective vaccine is available, but Connell said many horse owners have
cut back on the vaccinations available to protect their horses from
diseases such as EEE, rabies, and West Nile virus because money is tight.
"At some level it was spend money on the horse or spend money for
groceries," he said, and many horse owners took the chance that their horse
would not be exposed.

This year [2010], a huge population of mosquitoes combined with a growing
number of unprotected horses contributed to the rapid spread of the disease.

Connell said, for the sake of solid statistics and a more accurate picture
of the level of risk, he would like to see some government health agencies
share the cost of testing. "We're dealing with a federal and state mandate
to report this disease, while putting the onus of payment (for
confirmation) onto the owner --who is in this spot because he couldn't
afford to vaccinate in the 1st place," the Allegan veterinarian said.

When the 1st reports of horses stricken by EEE began emerging in Barry
County, state agriculture officials and private veterinarians began ramping
up efforts to get the word out. "We provided updates on the outbreak to the
Michigan Veterinary Medical Association, the Michigan Equine Partnership,
Michigan State University [MSU] College of Veterinary Medicine, and MSU
Extension," Halstead said. Local health departments were informed weekly
and Michigan's Emerging Diseases website was updated weekly.

Yet, "in the horse community, on the horse grapevine, this should have been
the topic of conversation and in the heat of this thing -- it wasn't,"
Connell said. "For the life of me, I don't understand why. I'm very
frustrated that the horse community didn't seem to take this seriously."

It's all hindsight now. Cold weather has killed the mosquitoes that carry
the virus, so no new cases are expected. In the end, Barry County was
hardest hit, with 43 cases either reported by veterinarians or confirmed by
the state. Most other cases were also from south west Michigan counties,
though sick horses were discovered in Eaton, Livingston, Jackson, and
Oakland counties as well. 6 horses died without a county of residence recorded.

Health officials say 3 people in Michigan were stricken with EEE this year
[2010] as well. "The take home message," Connell said, "is for God's sake,
vaccinate your horse next year -- work with your vet to make it happen."

[byline: Rosemary Parker]

communicated by:

[Dr Connell is right -- vaccinate! Make it happen. This is a preventable
tragedy for every owner, for the veterinarians, for the equine victim.

While the disease has waned for now, it will be back next year. - Mod.TG

The state of Michigan in the Great Lakes Region of the US can be located on
the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at .
The counties mentioned can be seen on the map at
. - Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]

[see also:
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (39): (NJ) 20101027.3903
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (38): (FL) equine, correction 20101022.3826
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (37): (IN) equine 20101021.3816
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (36): (NE) equine, not 20101015.3737
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (35): (FL) equine 20101015.3736
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (34): (OH,NY) equine 20101012.3698
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (33): (MI) human, equine 20101003.3587
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (32): (OH) equine 20101002.3575
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (31): (NY) equine, human 20100926.3494
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (30): (AL, NE, OH) equine 20100918.3375
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (20): (FL), fatal 20100818.2871
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA (10): (MA, MI) 20100728.2529
Eastern equine encephalitis - USA: (FL) 20100527.1755]

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