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Horses Tested Positive for Equine Encephalitis


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, August 12, Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan announces that two positive tests for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been recently reported by the department’s diagnostic laboratory located in Auburn. One sample was collected from a horse located in Dallas County and the other sample was collected from a horse in Mississippi.

Commissioner McMillan said, “This is the time of year that we are extremely vulnerable to the spread of mosquito-borne viruses and we need to protect our livestock and ourselves.  I want to encourage horse owners to vaccinate their horses for both EEE and West Nile Virus as soon as possible.”

According to information provided by the state Department of Agriculture and Industries, EEE is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is much more severe than West Nile Virus (WNV).  The mortality rate in horses from WNV is reported at around 30 percent, while the rate for EEE is almost 90 percent. Infected mosquitoes are the primary source for EEE. The virus causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord.  In horses general symptoms include central nervous system signs such as: head pressing, convulsions, lack of response to facial stimulation, fever above 103 degrees, ataxia, paralysis, anorexia, depression and stupor.  Other symptoms may include irregular gait, teeth grinding, in-coordination, circling, and staggering.  All symptoms may not be exhibited by an infected horse.  EEE affects horses, donkeys and zebras.

Commissioner McMillan and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier are urging that horse owners vaccinate your horses every six months against both EEE and WNV.  Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian to schedule a vaccination for their horses.  The public is also advised to make every effort to reduce human exposure to mosquitoes during this time of year.

According to the CDC humans can gets EEE from the bite of an effected mosquito. Human cases of the disease are very rare and are usually not severe. In those few cases that do become severe, mortality is approximately 33 percent. The disease is characterized by an inflammation of the brain(encephalitis) leading to headaches, fever, chills, and vomiting progressing to disorientation, seizures, coma, brain damage, and death. The CDC recommends using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and staying indoors while mosquitoes are most active.

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Healthy adults who become infected by the virus may experience flu-like symptoms such as high fevers and headaches. The young, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems can become severely ill or die from this disease.

80 percent of people infected with West Nile Virus show no symptoms. In 20 percent of infected people the illness causes fever, headaches, body aches, vomiting, and can cause swollen lymph glands and a skin rash. The illness may last for a few days or a few weeks. In a small percentage of infected people severe symptoms can develop.  Severe symptoms can include “high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.”

The CDC advises that the best prevention is avoiding mosquito bites.  The CDC also advises that you do not handle dead birds. Call your health department if you encounter bird carcasses.

For more information about EEE or WNV, please contact Dr. Tony Frazier at 334-240-7253.  For more information on public health mosquito surveillance and control programs, contact the Alabama Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology at 800-677-0939.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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