EQUUS - - Inbrief -

Venezue­lan equine en­cephalomyeli­tis (VEE) is an­other threat­en­ing dis­ease caused by a virus sim­i­lar to the one that causes east­ern equine en­cephalomyeli­tis. VEE stems from sev­eral dif­fer­ent sub­types of the virus, each of which pro­duces dif­fer­ent signs of ill­ness. Mor­tal­ity rates range from 30 to 90 per­cent, de­pend­ing on the vir­u­lence of the strain of virus.

The dis­ease is usu­ally found only in South Amer­ica, but it can creep north­ward into Cen­tral Amer­ica and Mex­ico. The good news is that VEE hasn’t ap­peared in the United States since an out­break oc­curred in south­ern Texas in 1971. How­ever, the pos­si­bil­ity that the dis­ease could ar­rive in the United States again re­mains a risk.

One fac­tor that would make a VEE out­break even more alarm­ing is that horses are not dead-end hosts for the virus. Mosquitoes and other bit­ing in­sects could pick up the virus from an in­fected horse and spread it to oth­ers—which would en­able a po­ten­tial out­break to move very quickly through lo­cal herds.

Vac­cines against VEE are not cur­rently rec­om­mended for use in the United States, in part be­cause horses who al­ready have an­ti­bod­ies to the virus would con­fuse test­ing should an out­break oc­cur. It’s pos­si­ble that the cur­rent EEE/WEE vac­cine pro­vides some crosspro­tec­tion against VEE, and should an out­break oc­cur in the States, a VEE vac­cine would also likely be made avail­able.

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