Horses are dying in South Carolina, and mosquitoes are to blame. According to an article in Saturday’s The State, the South Carolina State Veterinarian’s Office has now confirmed 30 cases of the fatal horse illness Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). That number is higher than last year, when 14 horses died from EEE in the state.
Five dead horses in the tri-county area have tested positive as of Friday. Horses from Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties have come down with the illness.
The disease is spread by mosquitoes through birds. It can be passed on to humans and animals if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Horses are especially affected, with fatalities in nine out of 10 horses that contact the disease.
Less than five days after exposure, horses start showing symptoms of stumbling, circling, twitching, leg weakness and partial paralysis. The horse’s ability to stand is affected.
The illness is fatal in one-third of human cases, however the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has no reports of humans in South Carolina with the disease so far this year.
Eastern equine encephalitis is rare in humans, with an average of 6 human cases reported annually. However, with the outbreak affecting horses, any person with flu-like symptoms who was recently bitten by a mosquito is asked to contact their doctor immediately.
The CDC reports two human cases in Florida and one case in Georgia in 2013. Seven veterinary cases were reported in North Carolina and 25 in Florida to date. Two horses in Massachussets tested positive in July and August. And a chicken in Delaware just tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis on Friday. There have been no reports in Ohio of bird, animal or human EEE cases this year.
According to the CDC, most reported cases of Eastern equine encephalitis come from areas in and around freshwater hardwood swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and the Great Lakes region.
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