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Ritchie hosts EEE clinic on Amish farm

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HEUVELTON — The state’s first Eastern equine encephalitis vaccination clinic for horses was held Thursday evening. Two dozen horses received shots as part of the effort to raise awareness, particularly among Amish farmers, of the EEE threat.

The event, organized by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and facilitated by local veterinarian Dr. John P. “Jack” Zeh, was held at the Hershberger farm on Irish Settlement Road.

Last summer the mosquito-borne disease killed at least 12 horses in Central and Northern New York and claimed the life of a 4-year-old Oswego County girl.

“EEE is a very serious disease that is nearly always fatal in horses — and nearly 100 percent preventable, if horses are vaccinated,” said Mrs. Ritchie, who attended the clinic. “Yet many horse owners, farmers and others are still unaware of the danger both to their families and to their farm animals. These clinics aim to educate farmers and horse owners, and protect a very valuable investment.”

With no central horse ownership registry in New York state, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets has run its own campaigns aimed at horse owners with mixed results.

Almost half the horses that died from EEE in 2011 were owned by Amish families. Officials estimate that number could be higher because many Amish do not have their horses examined by a veterinarian.

In response to the problem, Mrs. Ritchie, chairwoman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, held a gathering in Oswego County last year with Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon to review how the state works with county and local agencies to respond to EEE.

Budget funding secured by Mrs. Ritchie will help counties and private landowners pay for mosquito control. She also obtained money to allow participating vets to provide a $15 discount for horses.

At Thursday’s clinic, Dr. Zeh said he raised interest with Amish horse owners in getting more horses vaccinated.

“The horses receive two shots in a two- to four-week period,” Dr. Zeh said.

“In the future, the horses will receive booster shots yearly after vaccination for protection,” he said.

Dr. Zeh also offered tetanus shots and rabies shots for unprotected horses.

Another clinic will be held tonight in New Haven in Oswego County.

More information about EEE prevention can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/98192669/Ritchie-Fight-the-Bite-Card.

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