EEE Confirmed in Belchertown, Mass., Horse

EEE Confirmed in Belchertown, Mass., Horse


On July 31 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) announced the first equine case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) this year. The affected horse was stabled in Belchertown and is that town’s second EEE infected horse in two years.

“Today’s finding significantly raises our concern for the area. It’s important that people in high risk areas protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes,” said MDPH State Public Health Veterinarian Catherine Brown, DVM, MSc.

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Its fatality rate in horses is 75-95%. The course of EEE can be swift, with death occurring two to three days after onset of clinical signs despite intensive care. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems. Clinical signs of EEE include moderate to high fever, depression, lack of appetite, cranial nerve deficits (facial paralysis, tongue weakness, difficulty swallowing), behavioral changes (aggression, self-mutilation, or drowsiness), gait abnormalities, or severe central nervous system signs, such as head-pressing, circling, blindness, and seizures.

Massachusetts confirmed five cases of EEE in horses in 2012. Nationwide, 209 equine cases were confirmed.

The MDPH encouraged animal owners to reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools—especially after heavy rains. Additioanlly, they recommended that water troughs, which provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats, should be dumped, cleaned, and refilled at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Finally, they recommended that owners keep horses stalleds at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. And if an animal is diagnosed with EEE or West Nile virus (another potentially deadly mosquito borne disease) owners are required to report to the illness to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health by calling 617/626-1795 and to the MDPH by calling 617/983-6800.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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