The Florida Department of Health in Marion County wants Marion County residents, visitors, and horse owners to be aware that a horse in the county has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. The unvaccinated horse was tested for the virus on Feb. 28, after showing symptoms.
People who board animals in or reside around the Citra area should maintain a heightened awareness about the threat of EEE. Residents and visitors are encouraged to get their horses vaccinated for EEE if they are not currently vaccinated. This notice is designed to give public awareness but should not give residents a false sense of security if their area has not been named.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is 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. The state averages more than 60 reported cases of equine EEE and one to two human cases annually. This is the first case of EEE Marion County has seen in 2018.
The department encourages taking 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 should also take care to drain standing water that could attract or breed mosquitoes.
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, 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. Flush out water-holding plants with a hose once a week. Put away items that are outside and not being used around your home or business because they could hold standing water.
For more information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/eastern-equine-encephalitis/index.html.