Equine encephalomyelitis: symptoms and treatment


Encephalitis or equine encephalomyelitis is an extremely serious viral disease that affects horses and also humans. Birds, even if infected, present the disease asymptomatically and without suffering sequelae. In this Animal Expert article, we tell you all that is known about this virus that, in its endemic region – the American continent – has ended the lives of many horses.

We will talk about symptomatology of equine encephalomyelitis in detail, its treatment and prevention of infection. Keep reading to learn all about the disease:

What is equine encephalomyelitis

The equine encephalitis or equine encephalomyelitis is a viral disease that can affect horses, birds and humans, so we talk about a zoonosis.

This disease has three varieties : Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE) and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE), all present in the Americas and caused by Alphavirus- like viruses .

Equine Encephalomyelitis: Causes

The viruses that cause equine encephalitis all belong to the same genus. These viruses are very poorly resilient in the external environment, so they do not take long to denaturalize when they are not infecting a body.

In principle, these viruses live within some genera of mosquitoes that only parasitize certain wild and domestic birds that are reservoirs of the always asymptomatic disease, never bite humans or another mammal. The problem arises when temperatures rise in the region where they live and other mosquito genera appear that do not survive low temperatures. These new mosquitoes bite both birds and mammals, transmitting the disease between them

Equine encephalomyelitis symptoms

The symptoms of equine encephalomyelitis are just like any other encephalitis. Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) is usually a shorter and more deadly disease. The onset and development of symptoms are:

  • High fever.
  • The horse stops eating.
  • A depression appears in the animal.
  • Your head shows a fallen position in relation to the body.
  • The lips and lips remain flabby.
  • The view is altered.
  • The horse places its paws so that they are very separate from each other.
  • Involuntary movements arise because the brain begins to ignite.
  • Ataxia, parexia, and finally paralysis appear.
  • The animal lies down, convulses and dies.

Equine encephalomyelitis: diagnosis

After observing the symptoms a horse affected by this virus shows, a veterinarian may consider some type of infection that damages the nervous system. However, to determine that it is a virus and, in particular, the virus that causes equine encephalitis, viral isolation is required on a variety of cell lines or lactating rats.

Samples are taken directly from the cerebrospinal fluid from affected animals, although nerve tissue samples can also be taken if the animal has died. ELISA or RNA amplification by PCR are rapid diagnostic methods commonly used in many laboratories.

Equine encephalomyelitis: treatment

There is no specific treatment for equine encephalomyelitis . Antibiotics are not effective and no antiviral medicine is known for this disease. In more severe cases, palliative and supportive treatment such as horse hospitalization , respiratory care, fluid therapy and prevention of secondary infections are used.

Equine encephalomyelitis vaccine

To prevent equine encephalitis infection, there are several ways:

  • Systematic vaccination of all horses with vaccines that carry the attenuated virus or others with the inactive virus. If in doubt, we will consult the veterinarian on equine vaccine planning recommendations. Two vaccines for human use can also be found on the market.
  • Control of mosquito pests by fumigating the area, which is not recommended because it affects other arthropods and other animals that have no relation to the disease. It will be better to use local but highly effective repellents.
  • Use of mosquito nets, fumigation and hygiene in the stables. Avoid standing water in drums or puddles where mosquitoes can proliferate.

Correct use of all these prevention methods greatly reduces the possibility of an encephalitisepidemic in horses .