Vaccine fights ‘swamp cancer’ among Chincoteague wild ponies

Posted at 9:34 AM, Jan 22, 2020

CHINCOTEAGUE, VA – JULY 25: Wild ponies gather after swimming across the Assateague Channel during the 93rd annual pony swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 25, 2018 in Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Every year the wild ponies are rounded up on the Assateague national wildlife refuge to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The managers of a Virginia island’s herd of wild horses say a vaccination program to protect the ponies from a swamp disease that killed seven horses in 2018 is showing encouraging results.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company says it will continue giving the ponies yearly boosters to prevent Pythiosis, also called “swamp cancer.” The disease comes from a fungus-like organism that causes painful lesions.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports cases are down from 2018, when seven horses died. Just one died from what its owner suspected was the disease in 2019, and since then one unvaccinated horse contracted it, but has since recovered.