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Ritchie hosts EEE clinic on Amish farm

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HEUVELTON – On Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., State Senator Patricia A. Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) hosted New York State’s first Eastern Equine Encephalitis vaccination clinic for horses at the Peter and Jonas Herschberger, 210 Irish Settlement Road, an Amish farm.

The clinic aimed to raise public awareness and prevent the spread of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), the mosquito-borne disease that killed at least 12 horses in Central and Northern New York last summer and also claimed the life of a 4-year-old Oswego County girl.

Including 4-year-old Maggie Sue Wilcox in 2011, EEE has also caused the deaths of five people in Oswego and Onondaga Counties over the past 40 years.

“EEE is a very serious disease that is nearly always fatal in horses—and nearly 100 percent preventable, if horses are vaccinated,” said Sen. Ritchie on Thursday. “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, New York’s Agriculture and Markets has run its own limited educational campaigns aimed at horse owners with mixed results. But for years the agency assumed the Amish do not vaccinate their horses.

Many Amish rely on horses to transport products to market, travel back and forth to stores and church, for day to day errands, as well as to plow their fields.

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 horse-owners do not have their horses examined by a veterinarian.

Last year, in the wake of Maggie’s death by EEE in Oswego County, Sen. Ritchie, the chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, held a summit in Oswego County with Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon to review how the state works with county and local agencies to respond to EEE.

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

Sen. Ritchie organized and was present at the free clinic. Veterinarian Dr. Jack Zeh, Heuvelton, facilitated the clinic. In total, 24 horses were vaccinated with EEE vaccinations. Dr. Zeh said he also raised interest with Amish owners of more than a 120 horses in area, and he will work with them to vaccinate those horses in the future.

“The horses receive 2 shots, in a two to four week period,” said Dr. Zeh. “In the future, the horses receive a booster shots yearly after vaccination for protection.”

Dr. Zeh was also offered Tetanus shots and rabies shots for unprotected horses.

“All in all, Sen. Ritchie considers the clinic a huge success and we’re very happy with the amount of awareness we’ve raised,” said James E. Reagen, community relations director for Sen. Ritchie.

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

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

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