BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has confirmed the death of a horse in Brunswick County earlier this month was the first confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in the State for 2013.
"County residents need to be aware these mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented by taking personal protection measures," Brunswick County Health Director David Stanley said in a news release. "Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a very rare but serious disease and can result in lengthy illnesses, hospitalization, disability and even death."
Jeff Brown, Brunswick County's Vector Control Supervisor, said the mosquitoes that spread EEE are species that are found in freshwater floodplains or saltwater marshes.
"The mosquitoes that spread EEE aren't normally breeding in containers. That means you should pay particularly close attention to avoiding mosquito bites at all costs," he said.
He also urges all horse owners to check with their veterinarians to make sure their horses are properly vaccinated for both Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
With all the rain this year everyone needs to take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their pets, the health department said. Stanley urges residents to wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, apply mosquito repellant and avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
"We just can't stress this message enough – you need to be careful, taking every possible precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes," Stanley said.
EEE is a rare disease, but can occur in humans and horses. The viral illness, transmitted by some kinds of mosquitoes, attacks the central nervous system, causes inflammation of the brain and can be fatal to animals and humans. Wild birds serve as natural hosts for the virus. Mosquitoes bite the birds and then can transmit the virus to humans and animals. A person cannot catch EEE from another person.
North Carolina averages about one human EEE case each year. Young children and the elderly are most likely to contract EEE. Symptoms can develop from a few days to two weeks after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include rapid onset of fever and headache and can resemble a case of the flu. Survivors of EEE infections may suffer from long-term effects to the nervous system. Therapy is limited to treating the symptoms of the disease, but there is no specific cure. There is a vaccine for horses but no vaccine for humans currently exists.