Another case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has recently been identified in a North Carolina horse. Two of the cases are horses from Sampson County. The virus, which can infect both humans and horses, was first detected in the first Sampson County horse on Sept. 15, and in a second horse on Oct. 9. Due to the severity of the disease, both of the animalswere euthanized. No human cases of EEE have been identified in N.C. so far this year.
EEE is one of the most severe diseases in both horses and humans in the United States. Although rare in North Carolina, once a person is infected there is a 33 percent likelihood of death. Survivors of EEE may suffer from long term effects to the nervous system including brain damage. Those under age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk of developing severe disease.
In North Carolina, EEE is more common in the eastern part of the state, where the virus is normally passed back and forth between wild birds and mosquitoes. In most cases a particular species of mosquito, named Culiseta melanura, is responsible for EEE. This mosquito spends most of its time in freshwater hardwood swamps and prefers to bite birds rather than horses and humans – which is why human and horse cases are rare. From 2011-2015 only four human cases of EEE occurred in N.C., with infection occurring from July through October.
There is a vaccine for horses. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends vaccination against EEE as a part of a core vaccination protocol for all horses: https://aaep.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines/core-vaccination-guidelines Once a horse is infected, therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease, and there is no specific cure.
There is no vaccine to protect humans from EEE, and no cure once a human is infected. Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease. However, humans can protect themselves from EEE with repellents during the months that mosquitos are prevalent, with particular focus on the months of July through October. Extended periods of warm weather can prolong the mosquito population season. Use of repellants as protection is very important during this time. https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you. A second method is judicious suppression of mosquito populations, especially in areas near freshwater hardwood swamps https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/controlling-mosquitoes-at-home.html.
The health department advises the public to remain diligent in their personal mosquito protection efforts. These efforts should include the “5 D’s” for prevention:
· Dusk and Dawn – Minimize time outdoors when mosquitoes are seeking blood. The common species that transmit EEE to humans often bite at just before or after sunset or sunrise.
· Dress – Wear loose, light-colored clothing that covers your skin.
· DEET – When the potential exists for exposure to mosquitoes, repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide,) are recommended. Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are other repellent options. See www.epa.gov/insect-repellents for options.
· Drainage – Check around your home to rid the area of standing water, which is where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.
• Dispose of any tires. Tires can breed thousands of mosquitoes.
• Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers.
• Clear roof gutters of debris.
• Clean pet water dishes regularly.
• Check and empty children’s toys.
• Repair leaky outdoor faucets.
• Change the water in bird baths at least once a week.
• Turn over canoes and other boats, or treat them with approved larvicides.
• Avoid water collecting on pool covers.
• Empty water collected in tarps or any other items that can hold water around the yard or on woodpiles. Even the smallest of containers can breed hundreds to thousands of mosquitoes. They don’t need much water to lay their eggs. (bottles, barrels, buckets, overturned garbage can lids, outside garbage cans without lids, etc.)
• Plug or fill tree holes.
• Add minnows to isolated water such as rain barrels and ornamental ponds
· Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens fit tightly and are not torn.
· Keep tight-fitting screens or lids on rain barrels.
If you have specific questions pertaining to your horse and EEE please consult your veterinarian or the NCDA&CS at 919-733-7601. Recently NCDA&CS stressed the importance of vaccination for horses: http://www.ncagr.gov/paffairs/release/2010/6-10Equinevaccinations.htm.
For specific questions regarding mosquito control and prevention, contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131.