EEE Found in East Mississippi

By: Stan Torgerson
By: Stan Torgerson

The first known cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in this part of the state since the mid-1990s have been reported by the Mississippi State Department of Health, one in Wayne County and one in Clarke County.

The Clarke County horse was brought to the Seal-Laird Clinic in Meridian for treatment. Dr Otis Seal said there was nothing he could do.

"As it progressed during the night, he got to head pressing and really mutilated himself pretty bad and was humanely euthanized the next morning," said the veterinarian.

"The laboratory confirmation just came in today that this was a confirmed case of eastern Equine Encephalitis," said Seal.

This disease is apparently potentially more serious than West Nile, according to authorities. It is also transmitted through mosquitoes.

"There's been pretty good documentation results and research that says the horse is not contagious from horse to horse or from horse to humans," said Seal. "The human gets the disease very similar to the way the horse gets it."

That means by the bite of a mosquito. While you are in danger, your family pets, other than horses, are not.

Dr. Seal said, to protect yourself, wear long sleeves, use insect repellent and don't stay outside in the early morning or late afternoon when mosquitoes are most active.

"It is a danger to humans. Humans can get this same disease," Seal said.

However, no human cases have been reported in our area.

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Eastern Equine Encephalitis

  • Eastern equine encephalitis is found mainly along the eastern seaboard of the United States and on the eastern Gulf coast. The virus grows in birds that live in freshwater swamps, and it is usually found only in these birds, and in the mosquitoes that feed on these birds.

  • Anyone can get eastern equine encephalitis, but the disease is more common in young children and in persons over the age of 55.

  • It has a complex life cycle involving birds and a specific type of mosquito, Culiseta melanura, that lives in marshes and swamps.

  • These mosquitoes feed only on birds, they do not feed on humans or other mammals. In rare cases, however, the virus escapes from its normal habitat and infects other mosquitoes that feed on both birds and mammals (including horses and humans).

  • These mosquitoes can transmit the virus to animals and people. The risk of getting Eastern Equine Encephalitis is highest from late July through September.

Symptoms

  • Most people infected with the virus have no symptoms, others get only a mild flu-like illness with fever, headache, and a sore throat.

  • In rare cases, infection of the central nervous system occurs, causing sudden fever and severe headache, and followed quickly by seizures and coma.

  • About half of these patients die from the diseases. Of those who survive, many suffer permanent brain damage.

  • Symptoms usually occur 5 to 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Prevention

  • There is an eastern equine encephalitis vaccine for horses, but not for people. The only way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

  • If you must be outdoors at dawn or dusk, the time when mosquitoes that carry eastern equine encephalitis are most active, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET and follow the directions on the label.
  • Repair any holes in your screens and make sure they are tightly attached to all our doors and windows.

  • Mosquitoes can breed in water that collects in ditches, clogged gutters, old tires, wheelbarrows, and wading pool. Don't let stagnant water collect around your home.

    Source: http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/f_eee.htm contributed to this report.


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