Horse in Ocklawaha tests positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Florida Dept of Health

A horse in Marion County tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, also known as EEE. It’s the second case of the disease reported in the county this year and the 12th nationwide.

People who board animals in or reside around the Ocklawaha area should maintain a heightened awareness about the threat of EEE, the Florida Department of Health reported. The department also cautions that residents shouldn’t have a false sense of security if their area has not been named as a danger zone.

Eastern equine encephalitis is a mosquito-borne virus first recognized in humans in 1938. It cycles between mosquitoes and birds in freshwater swampy areas and is capable of infecting mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

The disease is 80 to 90 percent fatal in horses and 30 to 45 percent fatal in humans. Symptoms develop three to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Florida averages more than 60 reported cases of equine EEE and one to two human cases annually.

The health department says it’s important to take basic precautions to help limit exposure to the virus. People should wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors and use mosquito spray. Residents also should drain standing water that could attract or breed mosquitoes.

The health department also cautions that mosquitoes can breed in as little as a bottle cap of water that’s left standing for more than one week. At least once a week, residents are encouraged to empty, turn over or cover anything that could hold water, including tires, buckets, toys, pools and pool covers, bird baths, trash cans, recycling bins, boat or car covers, roof gutters, coolers or pet dishes.

Residents also should flush out water-holding plants, such as bromeliads, with a hose once a week. And items that are outside and not being used around homes or businesses that could hold standing water should be put away.

For more information on eastern equine encephalitis, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/eastern-equine-encephalitis/index.htm