Sometimes part of the virus can be detected in the fluid around the brain; however, collecting this fluid is far more difficult than taking a blood sample, so the latter is performed more frequently. In cases where the horse has died, tissue sampling is used to identify the viral components. If diagnosed here in Australia, the state government bodies are required to be informed as JE is classified as a “Notifiable Disease”.
There is no specific treatment for JE and any infection is treated symptomatically if required. By this I mean a horse may require nonspecific treatment such as phenylbutazone or flunixon if it spikes a high temperature, or a muscle relaxation or mild sedation if there are muscle spasms. Any horse showing signs of incoordination or impaired vision should be confined to a small “safe” area to prevent or minimise the risk of it injuring itself in fences or falling over objects in a paddock.
Prevention is based around controlling access of the mosquito to the horse using topical insecticide repellents, cotton rugs and fly veils. Horses can be stabled from dusk to dawn when mosquito activity is at its highest level. Stables can also be insect-proofed with netting, and the walls sprayed with an appropriate residual insecticide to further limit mosquito activity around horses. The lighting in stables should be turned off during the night or light sources changed to fluorescent types to discourage flying insects from invading the stable.
Owners should eliminate or reduce mosquito breeding grounds around their properties where possible, by removing stagnant water sources or fixing water leaks that can be havens for mosquitoes. Similarly, clearing debris and rubbish from around buildings and yards to prevent large numbers of mosquitoes propagating can assist.
In countries where JE is endemic, a vaccine is available and this is given as a two-dose injection protocol, four weeks apart. The vaccine is not available in Australia for routine use but is given to horses here when they are booked to travel to certain Asian countries where the virus is endemic. EQ
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