Florida Official Urges EEE Vaccination; 9 Deaths Reported

Florida horse owners are being urged to take advantage of the vaccines available to protect their animals against Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus, said Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson.

As the weather in Florida warms up, the mosquito populations will increase as will the potential for mosquito-borne diseases. Already, nine cases of EEE have been confirmed in Florida since the beginning of the year even though the peak season does not begin until May. There were a total of 18 cases of EEE in 2007 for the entire year.

Among the nine cases in 2008, six of the horses had not been vaccinated and two had not gotten booster shots. Only one horse was current with vaccinations.

"I am very concerned about the high number of cases so early in the year and I hope it doesn't mean we are in for a bad year," Bronson said. "But we can take steps to keep that from happening, and that is to get the vaccinations done as quickly as possible."

EEE is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the virus include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma, and usually death. The disease is fatal in horses in 90% of the cases.

So far this year EEE has been confirmed in horses in Putnam, Lake, Polk, Columbia, Clay, and Volusia counties, all of which were fatal. Volusia has been hit the hardest, with four of the nine cases having been found there.

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