The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced Oct. 2 that it had received confirmation of the third case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a Virginia horse this year.

The horse, a 19-week-old Racking Horse filly, was from Chesapeake. Because of her young age, the filly had not been vaccinated yet. The horse was euthanized Sept. 24 due to the severity of the illness.

All three cases of EEE this year have been in horses from Chesapeake. In mosquito-prone areas like Virginia, most veterinarians recommend a six-month vaccination schedule to provide full protection from EEE, West Nile virus (WNV), and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

Last year Virginia had one reported case of equine EEE (in a horse from Suffolk) and one equine WNV case.

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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. The course of EEE can be swift, with death occurring two to three days after onset of clinical signs despite intensive care; fatality rates reach 75-80% among horses. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems.

Horse owners should also consult their private practicing veterinaria