North Carolina Confirms First Equine EEE Case of 2017

North Carolina Confirms First Equine EEE Case of 2017

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

Photo: Gbohne/Wikimedia Commons

A 16-year-old Paint horse from Cabarrus County, North Carolina, has died after contracting Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE). This is the first confirmed case of EEE in North Carolina this year.

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. 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.

“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” said State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, DVM. “And if your horses aren’t vaccinated, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating them as soon as possible against EEE and West Nile virus,” another mosquito-borne disease.

Health Alert: EEE, WEE, VEE

The vaccinations initially require two shots, 30 days apart, for horses, mules, and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. Meckes recommends a booster shot every six months in North Carolina because of the state’s prolonged mosquito season.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents and fly gear.

Further, mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to WNV or EEE.

People, horses, and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the virus to other horses, birds, or people through direct contact.

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