Drought Pauses Florida EEE Cases

It's nearly June, and Florida's number of reported Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) cases is holding steady at six. Four cases have been confirmed as fatal, with two so far surviving.

The typical fatality rate for horses infected with the virus is over 90%.

Michael A. Short, DVM, equine program manager for the Florida Department of Agriculture, says that the severe drought affecting much of the area has resulted in lower than average infection rates for the spring season.

However, horse owners should not expect the trend to continue once the rain returns.

Short says that while drought conditions delay cases, it may actually lead to higher infection rates once precipitation patterns return to normal. Birds and mosquitoes, both known carriers of the virus, congregate around limited wetland areas during drought conditions, increasing the likelihood of spreading the virus within their population.

Short predicts that once the birds and mosquitoes start moving again that the virus will resurface in the equine population.

Florida confirmed 150 cases of EEE in 2005.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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