Encephalitis killing Horry County horses - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Encephalitis killing Horry County horses

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Dozens of horses at the Rock Smith Farm in Myrtle Beach are being monitored following the deaths of several others in Horry County from equine encephalitis.

Doctor Karen Bolten, the veterinarian for Myrtle Beach Equine Clinic says she has already had to put down four horses in the past three weeks in Horry County, and she's awaiting the tests on three others.

Equine encephalitis is a mosquito-bourne neurological illness that kills more than 90 percent of horses that become infected.

"If they are still standing they like to stumble around. They don't want to move. Their heads hang low, and they act very sedated," says Bolten. "I saw one this morning that was just constantly biting at the grass. It's very strange behavior."

Bolten cares for thousands of horses in Horry County and says this is the most cases of encephalitis she's seen in years. She blames the rain. In June we were more than seven inches above normal, and for July so far we are more than two inches above normal.  

"I had four cases last year, and we've already surpassed that number, and it seems like it's escalating this week," says Bolten.

The disease is preventable. There is a vaccine for horses, but Bolten says most horse owners make the mistake of only getting their animals vaccinated once a year when they should be doing so two times a year.

Myrtle Beach Equine Clinic will be holding a low-cost clinic this Saturday, July 20 from 9 a.m. until noon at Vereen's Turf Center in Longs.

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