Argentina is currently grappling with outbreaks of Western Equine Encephalomyelitis in the provinces of Corrientes and Santa Fe, with suspected cases also in Entre Ríos, Córdoba, and Uruguay.
This viral disease, highly lethal to horses and transmissible to humans through mosquitoes, is not caused by the Aedes Aegypti, the dengue vector. Through the National Service of Agri-Food Health and Quality (Senasa), the government has imposed restrictions on horse movement and mandates vaccination for equestrian events.
The Severity of Western Equine Encephalomyelitis
The José María Vanella Virology Institute of the National University of Córdoba confirmed the presence of Western Equine Encephalomyelitis in Santa Fe. The last official record of this disease in Argentina dates back to 1988. The fatality rate can reach up to 90 percent for Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) and between 20 to 30 percent for Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE).
This viral disease is transmitted from birds to mosquitoes, which in turn infect horses and humans. Strict movement restrictions have been imposed.
Preventive Measures and Response
Senasa has called for strengthening and deepening the clinical review of horses, extreme biosecurity measures, and the application of hygiene and disinfection. The National Commission of Health and Welfare of Equines (CONAE) has been convened to provide information and agree on joint strategies for managing the emergency. In coordination with the National Directorate of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), and jurisdictional authorities, the prevention and control of the disease in animals and humans are being reinforced.
Government Action and Public Engagement
The Argentine government has launched containment and control health measures in response to the outbreaks. Egress movements of horses from Santa Fe and Corrientes, the two eastern provinces of Argentina where the disease was diagnosed, are prohibited. Coordination with veterinary product chambers and producing laboratories aims to generate the maximum availability of vaccines in the shortest possible time. Senasa encourages the population to report any change in horse behavior to mitigate the impact of a potential outbreak. Furthermore, there is no vaccine for humans, although there are advances in clinical trials.