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Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) Georgia Man Dies

Health officials are sending out warnings concerning EEE. A man in Georgia died from the disease in late June, and Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have reported the highest number of horse cases of EEE in years. The disease kills almost all unvaccinated horses. EEE is a serious disease that can lead to encephalitis, and is considered to be more deadly than West Nile Virus in humans and horses. EEE is transmitted by mosquitoes that pick up the virus from infected avian populations.

Although human cases are infrequent, the human fatality rate can be as high as 50%. Experts warn that EEE is expected to continue moving up the east coast, and are warning people to use similar precautions against EEE as they would against WNV. These precautions include wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent while outdoors and getting rid of mosquito habitats, such as standing water, around the home.

The Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania has reported that the wet spring weather has led to an abundance of mosquitoes in the state this year. Horse owners in the northeast and mid-Atlantic areas should be informed that EEE may be more of a risk than usual this year and that the vaccine is available and effective. They should also be reminded of the availability of the West Nile Virus vaccine. There is no vaccine available for humans against WNV or EEE.

Outbreak of horse tail theft in Colorado puzzles and angers horse owners

An intruder broke into a pasture and unevenly cut off the hoof-length tails of half a dozen Belgian draft horses and ponies. Other horse owners in Elbert County, Colorado, have also reported tail thefts, while similar cases have been recorded in recent years in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.

While the animals were not injured, as the tails were cut off below the fleshy dock, horses rely on their tails to swat away flies in summer and owners say they will take 10 years to grow back. But police are puzzled as to the motive behind the crime. Horse owners said it would not make commercial sense to steal tails in such limited quantities, as horsehair fetches no more than $80 a pound.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus updates

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson is sending out an early reminder to horse owners to get their animals vaccinated for mosquito borne diseases especially in the northern parts of the state which have received significant rain. Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus are the two major equine diseases animal health officials are concerned about. The heavy rain and flood conditions have left a lot of standing water in many areas of North Florida, providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes which carry the diseases.

As of April 15, there are six confirmed cases of EEE and no cases of West Nile Virus. Four of the EEE cases affected horses that had not been vaccinated, one was an incomplete vaccination and it isn't known if the horse was vaccinated in the 6th case. The impacted horses have been found in five different counties, including Volusia, Gilchrist, Levy, Lake and Flagler. The numbers are down from last year but Bronson wants to ensure that downward trend continues. Last year at this time there were twelve cases of EEE, however, peak season for transmission of these diseases occurs during the summer months and with the recent rains this year could be worse than average. With the potential for a jump in the mosquito population after floodwaters recede, I think its prudent to urge horse owners now to get their animals vaccinated, Bronson said. These vaccinations are crucial for preventing the contraction of these serious, deadly diseases.

EEE is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the virus include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma and usually death. The disease is fatal in horses in 90 percent of the cases. Bronson says the majority of cases of EEE and West Nile Virus can be prevented through proper vaccinations against mosquito borne illnesses and he is reminding horse owners that now is the time to take action. Horse owners are urged to check with their veterinarian to make sure their animals have received current vaccinations and booster shots against WNV and EEE, and that these shots are kept up to date.

Could killer horse virus spread amongst humans?

Australia is suffering the biggest outbreak of the highly virulent Hendra virus since the disease was identified in 1994. Now a change in its symptoms in Queensland horses is raising fears that new strains may have emerged - and even that a strain capable of spreading from human-to-human could appear. "The different clinical presentations, and some very preliminary DNA sequencing data, suggest that the Hendra virus may be somewhat different in this outbreak," says epidemiologist Hume Field of the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases in Brisbane.

"It all suggests that there may be a cluster of Hendra virus strains, all closely related, but differing in their pathogenesis and infectivity," he says. Two people, both veterinary clinic staff, who became infected roughly four weeks ago, remain in hospital. Fifty more people who may have had contact with horses carrying the virus will undergo a second set of tests over the next few days.

At least seven horses have become infected with the virus, and five have died. Thirty-six horses will be tested for a second time tomorrow, and over 90 horses have been tested since the start of the outbreak, says chief veterinary officer Ron Glanville of Biosecurity Queensland in Brisbane.


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