Florida EEE Case Count Escalates to 70; Georgia Count is Nine

The number of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) cases in Florida had risen to 70 as of May 30, further substantiating an earlier suspicion that 2003 will be a tough year for fighting the disease. Florida's case count for all of 2002 was 25 horses.

The disease is caused by a virus found in wild birds, and it's transmitted to horses and humans via the bite of an infected mosquito. Horses do not develop high enough levels of the virus in their blood to be contagious to other humans or animals.

Vaccination histories are unknown for at least 28 of the 70 cases, and at least 31 had not been vaccinated for EEE within the past six months or at all. Sixteen of the 70 horses were recovering when the cases were logged; the other 54 horses died or were euthanized. According to Bill Jeter, DVM, diagnostic veterinary manager for Florida's Division of Animal Industry, "The sixteen cases that were reported were alive at the time the horses were seen by the veterinarians, and if we do a follow-up on these cases, I am sure that some of them would not have survived, as the horses would have died or have been euthanized a day or two later." A 90% mortality rate is associated with EEE in Florida.

The counties hit hardest are in the north central part of the state, including: Alachua (five cases), Bradford (four), Gilchrist (eight), Levy (seven), Marion (eight), Osceola (six), and Union (four). Most of the cases in Florida have had April onset dates (28), closely followed by March (24). Eighteen of the horses began showing clinical signs of EEE in May.

"There are no new West Nile virus (WNV) cases, but we continue to receive EEE positives," said Jeter. "It (the EEE) doesn't seem to be slowing down at this point."

Georgia EEE Cases

Additionally, Georgia has begun its EEE year, with confirmation of nine equine cases before May 21. According to Nelwyn Stone, DVM, Georgia's assistant state veterinarian, most of the cases have been in the southern part of the state. At least two of the horses recovered, and the rest died or were euthanized.

Stone said that some of the horses had been vaccinated for EEE, but it is unclear as to whether the horses were boostered properly.

Georgia officials are expecting a fairly heavy mosquito season this year, but Stone isn't sure which will hit harder--EEE or WNV.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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