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The Threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis

eastern-equine-encephalitisEastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is making the news lately. EEE is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. The normal hosts are various species of wild birds, but the virus can infect horses, people, dogs and other pets. Infections in animals other than birds are rare as mosquitoes tend to feed on specific species, but they do occur.

EEE is endemic in the eastern half of the United States. Just in the past month, one horse, one young child and two puppies have died from EEE in upstate New York.

Horses are more susceptible to EEE than other animals since they live outside and are exposed to plenty of mosquitoes. EEE is generally fatal in horses. Sick horses tend to show a high fever, act depressed, and may circle or show other neurologic signs. Eventually a horse may go into convulsions or a coma. Luckily, there are very effective vaccines for horses against this disease.

People and dogs can also contract EEE. Most cases in dogs involve puppies under six months of age whose immune systems may not be fully developed. There are no vaccines for dogs, so it is important to limit your dog’s mosquito exposure. Try to keep dogs inside during peak mosquito feeding times such as dawn and dusk. Ask your veterinarian about mosquito repellants. Some topical parasite control dog medications like K9 Advantix II also protect against mosquitos.

No repellant protects animals 100 percent so make sure your horses are current on their vaccinations and try to limit your dog’s outdoor exposures to mosquitoes.

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