Escambia County, Florida, Horse Euthanized due to EEE

Escambia County, Florida, Horse Euthanized due to EEE

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


An unvaccinated horse in Escambia County, Florida, was recently euthanized after contracting Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), according to an Aug. 1 statement from the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.

As a result, officials are encouraging area owners to ensure horses are vaccinated against mosquito-borne diseases, the statement said.

According to the Florida Department of Health's weekly mosquito-borne disease surveillance program, 32 Florida horses had tested positive for EEE so far in 2014 at the last update (July 26).

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.

Health Alert: EEE, WEE, VEE

The course of EEE can be swift, with death occurring two to three days after onset of clinical signs despite intensive care; fatality rates reach 75-80% among horses. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems.

Vaccinating horses against EEE coupled with mosquito control are the most important ways to minimize an animal's chances of becoming infected. In the northern regions of the United States, most veterinarians recommend vaccinating horses in the spring prior to peak mosquito levels. In the south, where mosquito populations are present year-round, veterinarians might recommend more frequent vaccination.

Minimizing mosquito populations near your horses by eliminating mosquito breeding and resting areas will reduce the chances these insects bite and infect horses and the people who care for them.

For example, reduce or eliminate sources of stagnant or standing water, remove muck from areas near the horses, stable horses during peak mosquito periods (i.e., dawn and dusk), use equine-approved mosquito repellants, place fans inside barns or stalls to maintain air movement, keep weeds and grass trimmed, and avoid using incandescent bulbs inside stables at night. Instead, place incandescent bulbs away from the stables to attract mosquitoes to areas away from horses.

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 three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado, and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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