MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate has announced that a horse has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) by the ADAI’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Auburn. The positive result originated from a horse in Baldwin County.
EEE is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is more severe than West Nile Virus (WNV). The mortality rate in horses from WNV is reported at around 30%, while the rate for EEE is almost 90%.
“Unfortunately, mosquito-borne viruses like EEE and WNV are prevalent in Alabama’s warm and wet climate. Vaccinating is critical to protect horses and ourselves,” stated Commissioner Pate. “I want to encourage horse owners to take precautionary measures and vaccinate their horses.”
These viruses cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. 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, circling and staggering. An infected horse may not exhibit all symptoms.
“We recommend vaccinating your horses every six months against both EEE and WNV,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier. “Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian to schedule a vaccination.”
It is rare for humans to contract EEE, with only a few cases reported in the United States each year. Infected backyard poultry flocks or horses cannot spread EEE directly to humans. The virus spreads to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. The public is advised to reduce human exposure to mosquitoes during this time of year when they are most prevalent.
The best way to prevent EEE is to protect yourself from mosquitoes by:
- Using DEET insect repellent
- Wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Removing any standing water from the premises
- Minimizing outdoor time at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes feed the most
Visit www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/prevention/index.html for more EEE prevention safety guidelines for humans.
For more information about EEE or WNV related to animals, please contact Dr. Tony Frazier at 334-240-7253.