EEE Detected in Cleburne County, Ala., Horse

The Alabama Department of Public Health has confirmed at least one positive case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a horse located in the city limits of Heflin in Cleburne County. A horse owner has reported the deaths of five horses between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15. Additional cases have been reported in horses in other counties including Dallas, Elmore, and Montgomery during 2012.

Reports are received from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries following testing at one of its veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

According to Dee W. Jones, DVM, state public health veterinarian, the significance of positive horses means the virus is present in the mosquito population.

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.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey disease maps, nine cases of EEE had been confirmed in Alabama this year, as of Sept. 25, not including the Cleburne County case. Last year, Alabama did not report any equine EEE cases.

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