The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) has reported that animal health officials have reported a case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in a horse from Jefferson County, Florida.

“The 6-year-old Quarter Horse mare was a recent rescue and had unknown vaccine history and been transported to Wakulla County days before clinical signs began on Dec. 28, 2016,” the EDCC said. “The mare was euthanized due to a poor prognosis.

“This was the fourth confirmed EEE case in Jefferson County and case 24 in Florida for 2016; cases are maintained by date of onset of clinical signs.”

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. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems.

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Horse owners should also consult their private practicing veterinarian to determine an appropriate disease prevention plan for their horses. Vaccines have proven to be a very effective prevention tool. Horses that have been vaccinated in past years will need an annual booster shot. However, if an owner did not vaccinate their animal in previous years, the horse will need the two-shot vaccination series within a three- to six-week period.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing stagnant water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents.