Eastern Equine Encephalitis

We've all heard plenty about the threat of West Nile, but another mosquito-born disease is causing trouble in south Georgia, Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

There were three horses that tested positive this spring, and now several more. A fourth horse in Berrien County was reported this week, along with one in Brooks County, and a dead horse in north Lowndes. This is a major concern for health officials since it's still early in the mosquito season.

They are recommending the counties to do adulticide spraying in a one-mile radius in each area where the infected horses were found. Lowndes County has already begun as part of the phase two of the operation mosquito plan.

Horse owners need to take safety measures with their animals by getting them vaccinated, while folks just need to stay away from the pesky insects.

“We're most concerned about the possible human disease, we do need people near swampy areas, or anybody who is going to be exposed to mosquito bites need to be very careful,” says Dr. Lynne D. Feldman, South District Health Director.

The mosquito that causes EEE usually are in rural or swampy areas as opposed to the West Nile, which can grow in the backyard. To prevent from contracting this disease as well as the West Nile, folks need to minimize time spent outdoors when mosquitoes are active, cover up, and use repellent that contains deet.

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Eastern Equine Encephalitis

  • Eastern equine encephalitis is found mainly along the eastern seaboard of the United States and on the eastern Gulf coast. The virus grows in birds that live in freshwater swamps, and it is usually found only in these birds, and in the mosquitoes that feed on these birds.

  • Anyone can get eastern equine encephalitis, but the disease is more common in young children and in persons over the age of 55.

  • It has a complex life cycle involving birds and a specific type of mosquito, Culiseta melanura, that lives in marshes and swamps.

  • These mosquitoes feed only on birds, they do not feed on humans or other mammals. In rare cases, however, the virus escapes from its normal habitat and infects other mosquitoes that feed on both birds and mammals (including horses and humans).

  • These mosquitoes can transmit the virus to animals and people. The risk of getting Eastern Equine Encephalitis is highest from late July through September.

Symptoms

  • Most people infected with the virus have no symptoms, others get only a mild flu-like illness with fever, headache, and a sore throat.

  • In rare cases, infection of the central nervous system occurs, causing sudden fever and severe headache, and followed quickly by seizures and coma.

  • About half of these patients die from the diseases. Of those who survive, many suffer permanent brain damage.

  • Symptoms usually occur 5 to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Prevention

  • There is an eastern equine encephalitis vaccine for horses, but not for people. The only way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

  • If you must be outdoors at dawn or dusk, the time when mosquitoes that carry eastern equine encephalitis are most active, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET and follow the directions on the label.
  • Repair any holes in your screens and make sure they are tightly attached to all our doors and windows.

  • Mosquitoes can breed in water that collects in ditches, clogged gutters, old tires, wheelbarrows, and wading pool. Don't let stagnant water collect around your home.
    Source: http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/f_eee.htm contributed to this report.


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