News

Mosquito borne disease alert for horse owners

Friday 20 March 2020

PIRSA is reminding horse owners to be on the lookout for the potential impact of symptoms of mosquito borne diseases such as Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus and West Nile virus/Kunjin in their horses.


This follows the detection of antibodies to both diseases in sentinel chickens located in the Riverland.

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mary Carr said the sentinel chickens were a good indicator of mosquito borne disease risk and this latest detection has prompted the warning to horse owners to not only be alert but to minimise exposure of their horses to mosquitos.

"Mosquito activity has been low and to date there have not been any recent cases of these diseases in horses in the state, however it is prudent that horse owners take precautions to minimise the potential for transmission of such mosquito borne diseases," she said.

"This includes trying to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible and eliminating mosquito breeding areas on their properties. Other mitigation strategies include using repellents, covering their horses or keeping them indoors at time of high mosquito activity, particularly at dawn and dusk."

Dr Carr said the last significant outbreak of these diseases in South Australia occurred in 2011, resulting in more than 100 horses becoming ill. While most recovered there were a very small number of cases that required euthanasia.

"In horses, infections with these viruses will not always show signs of disease, however symptoms can include staggering, incoordination, weakness and depression.

"If owners notice that their horse appears unwell, they should contact their veterinarian to arrange for an examination and possible laboratory testing.

"PIRSA is also advising veterinarians on appropriate testing protocols, including testing for Hendra as a precaution given the symptoms of Hendra, Murray Valley Encephalitis and West Nile virus /Kunjin virus in horses can all look very similar.

"As Hendra can be a fatal disease in both horses and humans, it is essential that horse owners and veterinarians, if they come across such symptoms in horses, practice strict biosecurity measures and wear appropriate personal protective equipment."

There is no known human risk from direct contact with infected horses, however humans, like horses, can be directly infected from mosquito bites. Further information about Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus, West Nile virus/Kunjin and other mosquito borne diseases in regards to human health can be found on the SA Health website www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/fightthebite.

For further information on Murray Valley Encephalitis and Kunjin for horse health visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/horse-health

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