Though its raining and mid-30's as I write this, here in western NY we know that spring is here, and bug season is just around the corner. As we start thinking about spring for our camelid species, Meningeal Worm Prevention is often first on our list, followed by GI Parasite Prevention, Feeding for Reproduction, and the first thoughts of Shearing Season. An addition to that list is Spring Vaccines.
Typically for our alpacas and llamas we have recommended vaccinating using a rabies vaccine and a combination clostridial vaccine, such as CD/T (Clostridium perfringens type C and D and Clostridium tetani), or a 7 or 8-way Clostridial vaccine, depending on your herd health history.
Now depending on your farm location, travel history, etc we may also suggest considering vaccinating for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. EEE is a blood borne disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It has typically been associated with neurologic disease in horses and occasionally in humans. Since 2004, EEE has been documented to cause disease in alpacas and llamas in the north east. Why not before 2004? Much is likely due to the fact that we weren't testing for it, though there has been speculation that the virus has mutated to be able to cause disease in our camelid species. Unfortunately for us in western NY, there were multiple reports in upstate NY of EEE in horses in 2012, as well as one case in a child and one in a dog. The majority of cases were in the Syracuse area (surrounding lakes and marshy areas), but there were a few documented cases in animals farther west.
The good news is that research done on EEE in alpacas in the past few years has shown that alpacas and llamas are able to respond to the equine vaccine and produce antibodies against the virus. Unfortunately no challenge studies have been performed yet (exposing vaccinated and non vaccinated camelids to EEE and looking for disease), however the vaccine has been shown to be protective in horses and emus.
So how do I prevent EEE (and other mosquito transmitted diseases)?
- Cleaning up dung piles, cleaning water tanks regularly, and removing any standing water from the farm (Mosquito control).
- Stabling/stalling animals during high transmission times (dusk and dawn) in the late summer/fall. (Most cases have occurred between August and October).
- Consider vaccinating with an equine labeled EEE vaccine if your animals are in a high risk area
For more information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Alpacas and Llamas, check out this article from the Alpaca Research Foundation, written by Dr Daniela Bedenice, DMV, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVECC of Tufts University.