One of two reported cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) this year in North Carolina included a horse in Carteret County that was euthanized due to the disease, state officials said.
Two horses have died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis within the past two weeks, state officials have confirmed.
EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable in equine by vaccination. Both horses that died were unvaccinated, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The horses – an 18-month-old Paint from Carteret County and a 3-year-old Quarter horse from Bladen County – exhibited signs of generalized weakness, stumbling, depression and inability to stand or eat, the release said.
The Carteret County horse was euthanized July 21, and the Bladen County horse died Aug. 2.
They are the first reported cases of EEE in horses in North Carolina this year. There were 15 cases reported in North Carolina in 2013.
Earlier this summer, New Hanover County officials reported that the disease was found in a sentinel chicken flock.
“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” said State Veterinarian David Marshall said in the release. “Several serious contagious diseases, such as West Nile virus, equine herpes virus and rabies, have similar symptoms and should be ruled out.”
EEE causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord and is usually fatal. Symptoms include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for signs of the disease to appear.
Marshall recommends that equine owners talk to their veterinarians about an effective vaccination protocol to protect horses from EEE and West Nile virus. The vaccinations initially require two shots, 30 days apart, for horses, mules and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. A booster shot is recommended every six months.
People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.