EQUUS - - Eq In Brief -

Cur­rently, no vac­cine is avail­able to pro­tect against EPM. For now, your best bet for pre­vent­ing EPM lies in lim­it­ing your horse’s ex­po­sure to the pro­to­zoa. And, for the most part, that means tak­ing steps to break the par­a­site’s life cy­cle and to pre­vent opos­sums from con­tam­i­nat­ing your horse’s feed and wa­ter:

• Avoid at­tract­ing large num­bers of scav­engers. It is not nec­es­sary, or prob­a­bly even pos­si­ble, to keep all opos­sums

away from your prop­erty. And that’s OK: Opos­sums eat prodi­gious num­bers of pest species, in­clud­ing mice and ticks, which can also carry dis­eases. But you do want to keep their num­bers to a min­i­mum---and that means clos­ing down the food sources on your farm that would at­tract opos­sums and en­cour­age them to stick around.

Keep your feed in sealed con­tain­ers and clean up spills im­me­di­ately. Use sturdy garbage cans with tight-fit­ting lids. Pick up un­eaten cat and dog food at the end of each day, and clean up fallen seed un­der bird feed­ers. If you have fruit trees, pick up fallen fruit. Killing or trap­ping opos­sums won’t help---if you’re still pro­vid­ing food sources, more will come.

• Pick up an­i­mal car­casses. Opos­sums pick up S. neu­rona by scav­eng­ing car­casses of other in­fected an­i­mals---which can be many species, in­clud­ing skunks, rac­coons, ar­madil­los and cats. To re­duce the risk that lo­cal opos­sums will get in­fected, re­move any dead wildlife you may find on your prop­erty.

• Keep hay and bed­ding clean. Make an ef­fort to keep any rov­ing opos­sums away from your horse’s feed and bed­ding. Store these ma­te­ri­als in a se­cured shed or loft to keep out wild an­i­mals, and dis­pose of any you find that has been con­tam­i­nated with an­i­mal fe­ces. Use feed­ers to keep hay off of the ground; check them pe­ri­od­i­cally for an­i­mal wastes and clean as needed.

• Seal off the shel­ters. Clear up brush piles, which can pro­vide shel­ter for wildlife, and close doors to sheds and other out­build­ings, es­pe­cially at night. Close off ac­cess to spa­ces un­der­neath build­ings, too---but first make sure you don’t al­ready have an­i­mals in res­i­dence. You don’t want to trap them in­side.

• Limit your horse’s stress. Horses who travel fre­quently and un­dergo the stresses of train­ing and com­pet­ing in high-in­ten­sity sports are at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing EPM, ac­cord­ing to a 2000 study from Ohio State Univer­sity. Your vet­eri­nar­ian can ad­vise you on steps to avoid over­tax­ing your com­pe­ti­tion horse and to keep him gen­er­ally healthy.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to “On the Front­lines Against EPM” (EQUUS 451).

With no EPM vac­cine cur­rently avail­able, your best bet for pro­tect­ing your horse is lim­it­ing your horse’s ex­po­sure to the causal pro­to­zoa.

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