By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (AP) - A vaccination program to protect a Virginia island’s wild horses from a swamp disease that killed seven ponies in 2018 is showing encouraging results, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company said.

The fire company, which manages the herd, said it will continue giving yearly boosters to the Chincoteague ponies as part of its efforts to prevent Pythiosis, also called “swamp cancer.” The disease comes form a fungus-like organism that leaves ponies with painful lesions, The Salisbury Daily Times reported. While it can be curable, it can thousands of dollars to treat. Cases are down from 2018, when seven ponies died of swamp cancer. Just one died in 2019 from what the owner suspected was the disease, the newspaper said. The agency also said one unvaccinated pony recently contracted the disease but has since recovered.

The fire company said it will continue vaccinating the herd over the next three years to determine if it will continue to be effective, spokeswoman Denise Bowden wrote in a Facebook update this week.

The herd will be screened for the disease again this spring.

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