Horse owners are being advised to vaccinate all of their horses against Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) as the disease has appeared in several areas of the east coast. News this week has reported that mosquitoes, chicken and birds have been testing positive for EEE with one horse in New York dying from the disease.
Encephalitis in general is a vector-borne (mosquito transmitted) disease that causes the brain to swell. Symptoms are common with other brain injuries including headache, confusion and drowsiness. Eastern Equine Encephalitis was first discovered in the US in Massachusetts after seventy-five horses died unexpectedly. Scientists were first able to isolate it in a horse brain in 1933 and were able to eventually create vaccinations for horses.
While human cases of EEE are rare, it can infect mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Mosquitoes contract the disease from birds and then infect other animals through future bites. Currently there is no cure for EEE.
Horses are very susceptible to EEE as they spend a lot of time outdoors in the presence of potentially dangerous mosquitoes. When bitten by an infected mosquito, a horse won’t show any signs of the disease until 3 weeks later, allowing the virus to do most of its damage. The first sign of EEE is a high fever that lasts for only a few days. After that, horses may appear drowsy, with bursts of excitement and restlessness. They will wander aimlessly and could become paralyzed. Unfortunately 70 to 90% of infected horses will die only a few days after they first displayed symptoms of the disease.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a preventable disease when the horses are properly vaccinated. Please visit the American Association of Equine Practitioners for vaccination recommendations. At Mosquito Squad, we have helped many barn and horse owners take the extra step of horse protection with our misting system which provides the area with continuous mosquito and tick control around a property. If you’re interested in learning how a misting system can help protect your horses against mosquito bites, feel free to give your local Mosquito Squad a call.