Deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis infects horse in Jefferson County

Deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis infects horse in Jefferson County
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (Source: MGN)

ORLEANS, N.Y. (WWNY) - Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare virus found in mosquitos that can be transmitted to horses.

There haven't been any cases of EEE in almost a decade in New York state, but that changed on Thursday.

In the town of Orleans, three horses had to be euthanized. One horse tested positive for the disease while two others in the same area also showed similar symptoms.

Jefferson County health planner Faith Lustik says it's rare but dangerous for horses and people.

“So, it’s fatal a lot of times in a horse and people may get and it’s not always fatal for people, but for a horse it usually is.” Lustik said.

There have been only five cases of EEE in people in New York since 1971 and all occurred in Oswego and Onondaga counties.

Jefferson County agricultural coordinator Jay Matteson says not all mosquitos carry the virus, but he says people should be proactive in trying to repel them.

“You could get bit by a mosquito that may be carrying that virus, so just minimize your exposure to mosquitos,” Matteson said.

Most humans who are bitten by infected mosquitos fight the virus in the early stages and recover quickly. However, Lustik says we need to use precautions when necessary.

“So that is why you have to use insect repellent and you need to dump out standing water around your house, because there’s where mosquitos breed,” she said. “So that will just make you even more comfortable and reduce the risk of disease.

Horse owners should speak to their veterinarians about vaccination against EEE.

Here’s more information about the disease from Public Health:

- Five cases of EEE in people in New York state have been reported since 1971. These cases were reported in 1971, 1983, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and occurred in Oswego and Onondaga counties. All 5 cases died.

- The risk of getting EEE is highest from late July through September.

- People at the greatest risk of developing severe disease are those over 50 years of age and younger than 15 years of age.

- There is no specific treatment available for EEE.

- Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn. Protection measures include wearing shoes and socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outside for a long period.

- Applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535 is also recommended to prevent mosquito bites.

- Do not put the repellent directly on children. Put it on your hands and apply it to your child.

- Do not put insect repellent on your face. Wash skin and clothing after returning indoors. Repair screens in your home. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application.

- Keep your yard free from standing water to reduce the mosquito population near your home.

- Throw away outdoor containers, ceramic pots, or containers that hold water

- Remove all tires from your property

- Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors

- Clean clogged rain gutters and make sure they continue to work properly

- Turn over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use

- Change water in bird baths at least every four days

- Clear vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds

- Clean chlorinated swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs

- Drain water from pool covers

- Use landscaping to eliminate low spots where standing water accumulates

Horse owners should speak to their veterinarians about vaccination against EEE.

Correction: In a story we aired from 7/30/20 - 7/31/20, we used file video of horses from Faith Riding Center outside Watertown. Faith Riding Center is not where EEE was discovered. We apologize for any confusion airing that file video may have caused.

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