North Carolina animal health officials have confirmed that a Cumberland County horse died last month after contracting Eastern equine encephalomyelitis, a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable by vaccination. The 8-year-old Quarter Horse died despite veterinary treatment, officials said.

This is the first reported case of EEE in North Carolina this year. The state recorded 12 EEE cases in horses in 2014. The virus has been detected in North Carolina for many years and is considered endemic, meaning the virus is now commonly found in the state and horse owners should take appropriate measures to protect their equine. State veterinary officials recommend horses receive the initial two-dose vaccine protocol, followed by booster shots every six months.

“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” said State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, DVM. “Several serious contagious diseases—such as West Nile virus, equine herpesvirus and rabies—have similar symptoms and should be ruled out.”

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs of EEE include moderate to high fever, depression, lack of appetite, cranial nerve deficits (facial paralysis, tongue weakness, difficulty swallowing), behavioral changes (aggression, self-mutilation, or drowsiness), gait abnormalities, or severe central nervous system signs, such as head-pressing, circling, blindness, and seizures.

[brightcove videoid="3127291880001" title="Health Alert: EEE, WEE, VEE"]

The course of EEE can be swift, with dea