Veterinarians are scrambling to keep up with the number of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) cases that continue to emerge in the southeastern United States. South Carolina in the last three weeks had 17 equine cases confirmed, and about 25 pending. Florida’s EEE case count has risen to 113 horses this year, and Georgia has logged 30 cases.

In 2002, South Carolina had five equine cases of EEE, Florida had 25, and Georgia had six.

Venaye P. Reece, DVM, equine programs coordinator and state animal emergency response coordinator with the state veterinarian’s office of South Carolina, said, “We’ve been due a high Eastern (equine encephalitis) year. It tends to be cyclic–it runs in 10-year cycles. Our last big year was 1991, and all the conditions are right (this year for another high EEE year). We’re getting clobbered.”

Reece said that the actual number of EEE cases is always higher than the number of reported and confirmed cases. “It caught everybody a little off guard,” she said, adding that almost all of the horses were never vaccinated, or were not current on their vaccinations.

Reece reports that every confirmed South Carolina equine case has died or has been euthanized, mainly because the cases have been “very acute,” with the horse deteriorating within 12 to 24 hours. “They’re fine one day, then look a little funny that night, and by the next morning they’re down,” she explained. Testing for suspected cases is completed at South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

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