EEE found in area

Published 9:28 am Monday, September 10, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news reporter
A deadly virus has found its way onto the farms of Escambia County, Escambia County Health Department officials announced Friday.
Two horses have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis in the Atmore area, bringing the total known infected horses to three for the year, said Jason Gurganus, environmentalist with the Escambia County Health Department.
Gurganus said the two cases were discovered at Lee's Veterinarian Clinic in Atmore after the owners contacted the clinic concerning the animals' condition.
The three cases are among a number of cases reported across Alabama this year. Neighboring Baldwin County has reported one probable human case of EEE and two EEE positive sentinel chicken flocks. Mobile County has reported one probable human case of West Nile Virus and four EEE infections in sentinel chicken flocks in that county with Washington County reported three horses being infected with EEE, health department officials said.
EEE and WNV are mosquito-borne viruses that are transmitted from bird to mosquito to bird, Gurganus said.
State veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier said the increase in population and a drop in available meals for the mosquitoes makes humans and animals easy targets.
Frazier said the mosquito population increases as the summer wears on, making the appearance of the EEE virus during August and September a common occurrence. &#8220This is typically the time of year we begin to see these cases come up,” Frazier said. &#8220Carriers don't always feed on birds. Late in the summer, such as the time we're in right now, the mosquitoes will search beyond their normal habitat to find a blood meal. There are a lot of mosquitoes hatching now and they are looking for a meal.”
Frazier said the high number of mosquitoes usually diminishes as cooler weather arrives limiting the spread of the illness.
Frazier also reminds horse owners to make it a practice to vaccinate horses twice each year against the illness.
Frazier also said horses are considered a dead-end host meaning they cannot infect any other animal or humans.
The Escambia County Health Department has compiled a list of ways to protect against being bitten by mosquitoes.

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