It was the fourth case of Eastern equine encephalitis verified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in the state on September 20, 2013. The horse with the positive EEE diagnosis was stabled in Plymouth County [Middleborough]. The DPH also confirmed Massachusetts’ first case of the West Nile virus in a horse stabled in Dartmouth.
People should become familiar with the symptoms of both Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile. Since mosquitoes are quite prevalent within Massachusetts and other states, it is incumbent on the public to take all necessary precautions against becoming the next blood meal of a mosquito. These minute and possibly-dangerous biters will remain active until the first frost – and this frost must be a hard frost. There are plenty of warm days left when mosquitoes will seek food, primarily from dusk to dawn. Suffice it to say that human blood is on their dinner menu.
Eastern equine encephalitis concentrates in the central nervous system of horses. It only takes from two to three days to kill a horse. The horse fatality rate is high and even intense medical care for the horse is unlikely to save it. Even if a horse does survive, it may never recover completely and continue living with neurologic problems. EEE manifests many symptoms including fever and depression accompanied by lack of appetite. Also look for difficulty swallowing, paralysis of the face, aggression, drowsiness and even self mutilation. The horse will suffer from abnormal gait, head pressing for relief, circling, seizures and blindness.
West Nile virus is also caused by infected mosquito transmission from a bite. Its onset appears like flu and the horse is hypersensitive to touch and sound. He will be depressed and become anorexic, and probably stop eating. The WNV-infected horse will appear “out of it” and display drowsiness, impulsive walking without control, and asymmetrical weakness in limbs. The mortality rate of WNV can vary from 30 to 40 percent.
Remember that if a horse of yours or nearby is affected by either EEE or WNV, it becomes a critical factor for all people in that infected mosquitoes are around. Immediate and extra precautions should be taken.
The Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health [617-626-1795] AND the Department of Public Health [617-983-6800] must be called when a positive diagnosis is made.
Read about horses and West Nile virus here
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