Delaware horse owners were advised to make sure their horses' vaccinations are current to protect against two potentially fatal diseases.

Delaware horse owners were advised to make sure their horses’ vaccinations are current to protect against two potentially fatal diseases.

West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalomyelitis are spread by infected mosquitoes and can be fatal, said Delaware State Veterinarian Heather Hirst. Both can be prevented by vaccination.

Horses and humans can contract the viruses if bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus. The viruses cannot be transmitted between horses or from horses to people. The viruses normally exist in a cycle between mosquitoes and birds, but occasionally EEE can be transmitted from mosquitoes to mammals. There have been no confirmed equine cases of EEE or WNV from 2014-16.

The Mosquito Control Section of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control monitors for both diseases statewide. DNREC treats wooded wetlands near populated areas and in mosquito-producing habitats.

Signs of EEE and WNV in horses may include fever, anorexia, head pressing, depression or personality change, wobbling or staggering, weakness, blindness, convulsions, muscle spasms in the head and neck or hind-limb weakness. Horse owners should call a veterinarian if these symptoms are exhibited.

Horses should be kept inside during dawn and dusk, which are peak mosquito times, and sprayed with topical insect repellents labeled for use on horses, Hirst said.

Residents are encouraged to report sick or dead wild birds of certain species that may have contracted the virus. Sick or dead crows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, hawks or owls; and clusters of five or more sick or dead wild birds of any species should be reported. Call 836-2555 in northern Kent county or 422-1512 in southern Kent and Sussex counties to report dead birds.

For information, call 888-295-5156 or 744-4990.