Publication Date

8-1-2006

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Geoscience

Abstract

This research examined equine management practices that limit or contribute to the spread of West Nile virus and other mosquito-bome disease. I hypothesize that there is a relationship between equine management practices and outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease in horse populations. Improved and appropriate mosquito habitat management may limit the risk of mosquito-borne disease in humans and horses by helping to lower the mosquito populations. The study goals were to recognize equine management practices and mosquito prevention practices that foster outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease. This study used a questionnaire for county level analysis of equine management practices and the relationship to mosquito-borne disease. This study is important because horses live in a natural setting among unmanaged elements, such as pastures with ponds, wooded areas, and riparian areas. However, horses themselves are highly managed. Equine management practices include pasture horses, who live exclusively outdoors, stabled horses who receive some turn-out time, and ultra-managed horses, such as race horses. Kentucky's economy is partially dependant on the horse industry, which is responsible for over 51,000 jobs and is a major part of the culture of Kentucky. Equine diseases can significantly affect this section of the state's economy. The study area consisted of three categories of noncontiguous counties, with each group containing three to four Kentucky counties. The three selected categories of study highlighted areas of West Nile virus incidence in equine populations. Surveys were distributed to horse owners and barn managers to collect data on differences in equine management practices and outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease. Two categories represented counties with large equine populations, and one category represented counties with low equine populations. Category I consists of the three counties that were selected based on high horse populations and high incidence of West Nile virus in 2002—Barren, Fleming, and Nelson counties. Category II consists of four counties with high equine populations and low incidence of West Nile virus in 2002 - Allen, Grant, Jessamine, and Meade counties. The third category looks at low equine populations and high incidence of West Nile virus in 2002 - Carlisle, Marion, Russell, and Todd counties. Areas with low equine populations and low incidence of West Nile virus were not considered for the study because those areas do not have either high horse populations or high incidence of West Nile virus and hence were not relevant for this particular research question about equine management practices. A minimum of thirty surveys was collected for each category. Statistical analysis was used to determine relationships between incidences of disease, management practices, and knowledge of mosquito prevention. Each survey question was analyzed using the two-tailed version of the two-sample difference of proportion test. West Nile virus is an important disease to study due to the potential economic loss to the horse industry but also because the disease has been responsible for sickness and death in human and animal populations. I studied horses because of the their mix of unmanaged and managed habitat. This study did find a difference in equine management practices when it came to vaccination to prevent West Nile virus occurrences in horse populations. Horse people in categories with high horse populations had a higher use of a West Nile virus vaccine to prevent disease than people use in the low horse population category. While statistics from this study show that there is little or no difference in other equine management practices between the three categories, this research demonstrates that few horse owners and barn mangers limit mosquito habitat around their animals or are aware of IPM techniques. Vaccination lowers the chance that a horse will develop West Nile virus, but it is important that active equine management programs include limiting mosquito habitat to assist in prevention of mosquito-borne disease. Limiting mosquito-borne disease is an important preventive strategy that could protect the health of both horses and humans.

Disciplines

Animal Sciences | Geology | Hydrology