Lowndes County, Georgia, Horse Tests Positive for EEE

Lowndes County, Georgia, Horse Tests Positive for EEE

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes.

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The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed that a Lowndes County horse has tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Additionally, last month, a horse tested positive for EEE in Brooks County.

As such, public health officials in South Georgia are encouraging residents to guard against mosquito exposure.

“Mosquito-borne illnesses are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito,” states William Grow, MD, FACP, the South Health District’s health director. “The more time someone is outdoors, the more time the person is at risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito; that is why we encourage everyone to take all precautions against mosquito bites.”

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. 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. 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.

Health Alert: EEE, WEE, VEE

Horses that have not already been vaccinated this year for EEE or other mosquito-borne diseases are at greater risk, but it is not too late to vaccinate. Horses that have been vaccinated in past years will need an annual booster shot; in areas with a long mosquito season, veterinarians might recommend two boosters per year—one in the spring and one in the fall. However, if an owner did not vaccinate their animal in previous years, the horse will need the two-shot vaccination series within a three- to six-week period.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing stagnant water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents.

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