More Than 100 Wild Burros Dead of Equine Influenza in California

The equine industry is supporting the care of this donkey population, including intensive care and herd vaccination.
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Depending on the area of California, there are hundreds to thousands of burros living in the wild.

Those involved describe a team effort to save wild burros from an equine influenza outbreak that has killed more than 100 donkeys thus far in the Reche Canyon area of Southern California.

A previous EquiManagement article about the plight of the flu-plagued donkeys can be found here.

Assisting in the rescue and care efforts for these donkeys is Paul Wan, DVM, DACVS, Cert. VBM, of SoCal Equine Hospital, who volunteers at DonkeyLand. He had requested donation of Merck's Flu Avert I.N. to use in the face of the equine influenza outbreak, and the company responded by quickly sending 100 doses.

"I want to give a shout-out to Merck for the vaccine," said Wan. "Every time I use this intranasal vaccine I'm more impressed."

DonkeyLand's Facebook page stated, "Thank YOU to Merck Animal Health for donating 100 vaccines to our local wild burros. Dr. Wan and his wonderful team from SoCal Equine Hospital came out over the weekend to vaccinate and give check-ups to many of the wild burros."

“Jessica Steffien (Merck's senior territory representative in the region) is representative of our entire team," said Ron McDaniel, national sales manager for equine at Merck Animal Health. "When they see a veterinarian like Dr. Wan desiring to make a difference in their community, they’re honored to come alongside and help where they can. Being able to provide a product that has the potential to turn this outbreak around is a blessing that we’re pleased to share.”

Steffien said, “Veterinarians such as Dr. Wan play a pivotal role in managing disease outbreaks, and Merck Animal Health is a willing partner to provide products and services to remedy the situations. It’s because as a company we care about animal life that we do what we can.

"Thanks, everyone, for the help and support with getting Flu Avert to the burros!" Steffien concluded.

DonkeyLand, a 501(c)(3) organization, continues to play a key role in assisting the rescue of sick donkeys and returning them to the wild when possible.

"There are 28 orphans we are closely watching from a distance that other mothers have adopted in the wild," stated DonkeyLand on its Facebook page, "mothers lost their biological children and children lost their mothers. We have saved 150 lives so far."

Watch a video from DonkeyLand about the orphan burros here.

To report a dead, distressed, sick or orphaned burro, call:

  • Riverside County Department of Animal Services, 951-358-7387
  • Moreno Valley Animal Control, 951-413-3790
  • Redlands Animal Control, 909-798-7644

Experts recommend that local horse owners check with their veterinarians about flu boosters for their domestic horses. They also were encouraged to keep domestic horses away from the wild donkeys.

"We've seen some flu-like symptoms in the horse population around here," noted Wan. "We have treated some [domestic horses] for fever, cough and nasal discharge, but none have been PCR tested that I know of."

Wan said some of the wild burros had cultured positive for Streptococcus zooepidemicus and had been treated with antibiotics and bronchodilators. 

Whether the influenza virus has run its course, there is a lull in the spread or the vaccinations are helping curb spread, Wan said the number of really sick animals he's getting called about is decreasing. 

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