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Euthanised Shetland Pony had Japanese Encephalitis

ABOVE: How the Japanese Encephalitis Virus is spread.

A SHETLAND Pony in Young, NSW, has been euthanised after contracting Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV).

Equine Veterinarians Australia reported the case on Friday, stating the “Department of Primary Industries is confident that the pony had JEV, however cannot be definitive that clinical symptoms were the result of JEV”.

The pony, aged 11, presented with severe neurological symptoms and fever.

“Samples returned Hendra negative, but positive antibody titre for JEV and Murray Valley Encephalitis,” the statement said.

Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease from Asia that has only recently been found in Australia.

Horses, like humans, are dead-end hosts of the virus, which means that if infected, they do not develop high levels of virus in their bloodstream and cannot pass the virus on to other biting mosquitoes.

Dead-end hosts can still become seriously ill or die from the virus, however.

According to Agriculture Victoria symptoms in horses and donkeys include fever, jaundice, lethargy, anorexia and neurological signs which vary in severity (incoordination, difficulty swallowing, impaired vision and, rarely, a hyperexcitable form occurs).

The department says many cases are asymptomatic and most clinical disease is mild.

According to Agriculture Victoria, the mosquito species Culex annulirostris is believed to be the major vector for JEV in inland areas. It is also the major species of concern for transmission of Ross River Virus, Barmah Forest Virus, West Nile virus/Kunjin Virus and Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus.

Because JEV is a notifiable disease, all states and territories publish regular statistics on human cases, but the Department of Health in Victoria has this month started to release mosquito and mosquito-borne disease surveillance reports on a weekly basis due to high mosquito numbers now being experienced.

The reports are not showing high numbers of Culex annulirostris and there have been no cases of JEV in humans this month (or since the start of the reporting year in July).

Current animal case numbers around the country are harder to pin down, with most accessible data dating back to the 2021-2022 reporting period.

However, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has confirmed the first case of JEV in pigs for the 2022-2023 season.

The piglets were from a property in the Murray Local Land Services region, a region that has been heavily flood impacted during winter and a part of the outbreak earlier this year.

Agriculture Victoria conducted 93 horse investigations earlier this year, with none confirmed positive.

There were 24 inconclusive examinations in NSW in the 2021-22 season and one probable case and two inconclusive in Queensland.

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