The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reported today that several cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in horses have recently been reported in the state. According to the ADH, the presence of EEE in horses indicates the risk is present in local mosquitoes, as well.
EEE is a mosquito-borne virus that causes swelling of the brain. EEE is rare in humans; however, humans are susceptible to the virus. Humans can become infected with EEE when mosquitoes who have fed on previously infected animals then feed on humans. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop symptoms. Those that do can experience headache, chills, fever, malaise, joint and muscle pain. This can progress to serious neurological symptoms such as drowsiness, seizures, and coma and even death.
Officials advise that as Arkansans plan to enjoy the outdoors during Labor Day weekend, the ADH is stressing the importance of taking precautions against ticks and mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry. Officials are cautioning that whether in their own backyard or on a trip, Arkansans should protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases, as some of these diseases can be fatal; some of them can also be difficult to diagnose and treat. The ADH advises that mosquito bites can be prevented by:
- Using an EPA-approved insect repellant as directed.
- Using permethrin on your clothing as directed.
- Reducing mosquitoes around your home. Get rid of any standing water on your property. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a bottle cap full of water.
- Wearing protective clothing from dusk to dawn when outdoors.
In horses, EEE is fatal 70 to 90 percent of the time. Horse and large animal owners are encouraged to vaccinate their animals against the virus and to clean out watering sources, such as buckets and troughs, every 3-4 days to prevent mosquitoes from breeding there.
If you experience any symptoms and think you may have EEE, talk with your healthcare provider about testing. You can learn more about insect-related diseases at www.healthy.arkansas.gov.
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