AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Alabama's Agriculture & Industries Commissioner is alerting horse owners to vaccinate after two horses tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
One horse was from Dallas County, AL, The other in Mississippi. EEE is a mosquito-borne virus and is almost always fatal in horses.
Large animal veterinarians at Auburn University are warning about the deadly illness and how this is a good reminder for humans as well.
Itchy, painful bumps; we all know them as the mark of the mosquito. Health experts are encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their animals, and families you need to be on guard too, against mosquito-borne illnesses.
This is the time of year health experts say we are extremely vulnerable mosquito-borne viruses.
"We can try to do mosquito control, but it is best to have horses vaccinated because it is inevitable a mosquito is going to bite the horse and the mosquitoes carry viruses they get from birds that can cause illnesses in the horse," said Dr. Debra Taylor with AU's Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital.
Dr. Debra Taylor says there's no cure for these viruses that cause inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Eastern Equine Encephalitis has a mortality rate of 90 percent, and West Nile Virus has a mortality rate of around 30 percent in animals. Taylor says the disease is easy and cheap to prevent in animals.
"The vaccine is a combination of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile and Tetanus all together, and the vaccine is not expensive, about $25 to $40, it's well worth it cause the disease are fatal 90 percent of the time when you get EEE, West Nile is treatable, but why would you want to when you can vaccinate so cheaply?" she said.
A few human cases of EEE are reported in the U.S. each year, with a mortality rate of 33 percent, with most survivors suffering from severe brain damage. As of August 2015, 42 states have reported human West Nile Virus infections with 141 cases. There is no human vaccine yet for EEE or West Nile.
"Humans need to practice mosquito control, use bug spray and citronella candles when you are outside because the same mosquito's that can infect horses can also transmit these types of diseases in people," Dr. Taylor said.
The nighttime dusk hours are when mosquito's are most active, so make sure if you or your kids are outside after dinner, you are wearing bug spray. Horse owners, many vets will come to your property and vaccinate your animals.
For more information about EEE or WNV, please contact Dr. Tony Frazier at 334-240-7253. For more information on public health mosquito surveillance and control programs, contact the Alabama Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology at 800-677-0939.