This is the county's first documented case in a mammal of Eastern Equine Encephalitis
FARMINGTON — A 1-year-old horse stabled in Farmington has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, which Ontario County health officials said is the first time it has been documented in a mammal in the county.
The health department was notified Aug. 30.
Public Health Director Mary Beer said it’s just the one horse, but enhanced surveillance for the disease is underway and the state departments of Health and Agriculture & Markets are working together to inform residents and physicians and veterinarians of the disease and its symptoms.
EEE is caused by a virus transmitted by a certain type of mosquito. Humans rarely become infected, but if they do, the illness is serious and can be fatal because of brain inflammation, or encephalitis.
“It’s a serious disease,” Beer said. “People need to know it’s out there.”
Here are the symptoms horse owners should be on the lookout for: fever, changes in gait, inability to get up and refusal to eat. Contact a veterinarian if these occur. Vaccines are available to help protect horses from EEE.
Horse owners are urged to minimize mosquito exposure by frequently changing water in troughs and buckets and eliminating other standing water sources.
Several horses died of EEE in Wayne County over the course of two to three years, beginning in 2014. The county then began an aerial spraying program to reduce mosquito populations in impacted areas, although Ontario County is not at that point, Beer said.
“But we are monitoring this,” Beer said.
Human infection is rare and it is possible to be infected and have no symptoms. Individuals under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk for developing severe disease. Symptoms include sudden headache, high fever, chills, vomiting, disorientation and seizures. These should be reported to a healthcare provider.
Health officials said there is no human vaccine for EEE.
The disease is not transmissible person-to-person, horse-to-human or horse-to-horse, health officials said.
So, preventing mosquito bites is important. Wear long sleeves and tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants when outdoors at dusk or dawn.
Use insect repellents containing DEET, but heed the manufacturer’s instructions. Reduce the mosquito population around homes by removing standing water, including paying attention to containers, tires, gutters, pools, hot tubs, birdbaths, and the like that have water.
Additionally, make sure window and door screens fit properly and are in good condition.
“It’s just important for people to understand that mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases,” Beer said. “We can’t get rid of every mosquito, but we can take precautions.”