Horses hit by Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Alabama

Colourised transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicting a salivary gland that had been extracted from a mosquito, which was infected by the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, which has been colorized red; magnified 83,900 times.
Colourised transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicting a mosquito’s EEE-infected salivary gland, which has been colorized red; magnified 83,900 times. © CDC

Four cases of mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been confirmed in horses in Dallas County, Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said there were additional reports of cases in horses in Elmore and Montgomery counties. However, laboratory confirmation has not been performed.

In Baldwin and Mobile counties, four sentinel chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV).

The three sentinel chickens that tested positive in Baldwin County were in Gulf Shores, Magnolia Springs and Perdido Beach. One sentinel chicken was positive for WNV in the BelleFontaine area of South Mobile County.

State public health veterinarian Dr Dee Jones said the significance of positive horses and chickens means the virus is present in the mosquito population.

He warns that the same mosquitoes that infect animals pose a risk to humans.

Confirmation of viral activity is common in the summer and fall months.

Map showing location of Dallas County in Alabama.
Map showing location of Dallas County in Alabama.

Positive case counts in the state vary from year to year based on mosquito populations. The virus can  spread only through the bite of a mosquito, and not from another animal.

“With many people enjoying outdoor activities, it is important that residents take every effort to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes,” Jones said.

“Keep your mosquito repellent with you at all times when you are working or participating in recreational activities outdoors.”

EEE, WNV and other mosquito-borne viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes after they feed on birds. The same mosquitoes can then infect mammals, particularly humans and horses.

Humans and horses can sometimes become seriously ill from the infection. Transmission to humans and horses can be decreased by taking steps to avoid mosquitoes and by the use of WNV and EEE vaccine in horses.

Vaccination for horses was important in preventing infection in these animals, Jones said.



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