Yesterday, I wrote an equIDblog post about an outbreak of unexplained neurological disease in horses in the Murray River region of Australia.  Today, a ProMed report indicates that Murray Valley encephalitis is now being considered as a possible cause of death in a man from the area.

Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) is one of the possible causes of the equine neurological disease outbreak, and it’s quite likely that if it caused disease in one species in the region, it did the same to another. This rare mosquito-borne disease hasn’t been seen in decades in the region, but it’s possible that high mosquito numbers following heavy rainfall and flooding have increased the risk of transmission.

While this virus poses a risk to both humans and horses, humans and horses pose no risk to each other.  Both acquire the disease the same way – from mosquitoes – and neither can pass it on to the other.  This is also true of other insect-borne viruses such as West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.

This is a good example of why human and animal disease surveillance need to be linked, and why governments need to put resources into testing of animals beyond food animals. Rapidly identifying a disease in horses or other animal species can help determine whether there is any risk to humans, and hopefully lead to preventive measures being taken earlier.

Prevention of this disease is focused predominantly on mosquito avoidance. It’s impossible to completely prevent mosquito exposure, but some basic practices can help reduce the risk.  Click here for some practical tips on protecting yourself and your horses from mosquitoes.

Image: Location of the Murray River in Australia (click for source)

This Worms & Germs blog entry was originally posted on equIDblog on 13-Mar-11.