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Horse in West Tennessee tests positive for disease that can be fatal for horses & humans

(TN DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE NEWS RELEASE) – A horse in West Tennessee has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a virus that can be fatal fo...

(TN DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE NEWS RELEASE) – A horse in West Tennesseehas tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a virus that can befatal for horses and humans. The Tennessee departments of Agriculture andHealth (TDA and TDH) are advising citizens to take precautions to protectthemselves and their livestock.

The horse in Gibson County showed signs of illness. Testingconfirmed it was suffering from EEE, and the horse was euthanized.

Mosquitoes transmit EEE. An infected horse cannot directlytransmit the virus to other horses or humans through contact. However,mosquito-borne diseases do pose a public health risk. Tennessee had the firstdocumented human case of EEE in a resident of Hamilton County earlier thissummer. This recent equine case serves as a reminder that mosquito season isnot over yet.

“Mosquitoes may remain active across Tennessee until temperaturesfall below freezing,” said Tennessee Department of Health Deputy StateEpidemiologist John Dunn, D.V.M., PhD. “The best ways for people to protectthemselves from mosquito bites are to wear insect repellent, wear long sleevesand long pants, drain standing water around homes and businesses, and avoidpeak times when mosquitoes bite at dusk and dawn.”

Although there is no vaccine for humans, the EEE vaccine forequines is particularly effective to prevent infection in horses. Every horseowner should speak with their veterinarian to develop an appropriatevaccination plan.

“EEE is a devastating illness, with up to 95 percent mortality ininfected horses,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty, D.V.M. said. “Whileyou may not be able to completely prevent mosquito bites on your horses,appropriate vaccines are vital to safeguarding their health and protecting themfrom EEE and other insect-borne diseases.”

Livestock owners should always monitor their animals and contact aveterinarian if an animal appears sick. Equine symptoms of EEE may includelethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, and/or colic.

To minimize risk of insect bites around your farm, use insectrepellent for livestock and eliminate sources of standing water where insectscongregate and breed.

TDH offers the following tips to protect people from mosquitobites:

  • Use repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, following all label recommendations for use. 
  • Wear closed shoes with socks, along with long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and pants.
  • Avoid perfumes, colognes, and products with fragrances that might attract biting insects.

The state veterinarian is responsible for monitoring for andpreventing the spread of animal disease, as well as promoting animal health inTennessee. The office works with private veterinarians, animal pathologists anddisease diagnostic laboratories to identify diseases and determine the cause ofanimal deaths.

TDA and TDA work closely together to help protect the health ofanimals and people as part of the Tennessee One Health Committee. One Healthseeks to improve communication and encourage collaboration among veterinarians,physicians, environmental scientists, public health professionals, and othersto find solutions to shared challenges such as emerging infectious diseases,antibiotic resistance, and emergency preparedness.