Deadly disease that affects horses found in 3 AL counties

AL State Department of Agriculture raises concerns over horses

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A deadly, mosquito-transmitted disease has spread to three Alabama counties, killing horses.  It is called the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) Virus and it's prevalent in warm and wet climates.

Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier says two horses were already euthanized this year after showing signs of EEE. Horses with the disease were found in Houston, Mobile and Geneva counties.

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan is urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses every six months.

"Thank goodness we have these vaccines that are extremely effective and about the only thing horse owners can do is to get those vaccinations," McMillan said. "And of course we always say control the mosquito population, well that's not so easy to do."

This disease is more severe than West Nile Virus (WNV). The mortality rate in horses for West Nile is reportedly around 30 percent while the rate for EEE is almost 90 percent.

Both viruses can cause the following symptoms: 
•    Inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord
•    Head pressing
•    Convulsions
•    Lack of response to facial stimulation
•    Fever above 103 degrees
•    Paralysis and depression
•    Teeth grinding, circling and staggering

However, an infected horse may not show all of these symptoms. The CDC says people can also be infected with the virus and a third of all people with EEE die from the disease.

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