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Commissioner advises horse owners to vaccinate for EEE disease, West Nile

Published 4:35pm Friday, August 15, 2014

The first positive case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been detected in Alabama, according to Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan.

“This is the time of year that we are extremely vulnerable to the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, and we need to protect our livestock and ourselves,” McMillan said.

EEE is a mosquito-transmitted disease that is much more severe than West Nile Virus (WNV).

The mortality rate in horses from WNV is reported at around 30 percent, while the rate for EEE is almost 90 percent. Infected mosquitoes are the primary source for EEE.

The virus causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. General symptoms include central nervous system signs such as: head pressing, convulsions, lack of response to facial stimulation, fever above 103 degrees, ataxia, paralysis, anorexia, depression and stupor.

Other symptoms may include irregular gait, teeth grinding, incoordination, circling, and staggering. An infected horse may not exhibit all symptoms.

McMillan and State Veterinarian Tony Frazier recommend vaccinating horses every six months against both EEE and WNV.

Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian to schedule a vaccination. The public is also advised to make every effort to reduce human exposure to mosquitoes during this time of year.

The horse positive for EEE in Alabama was from Escambia County.

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