LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed the state’s first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis this year.
Veterinarian Nora Wineland found the case in a 2-year-old Standardbred filly from Livingston County, according to a news release Thursday.
EEE is a zoonotic, viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes to both animals and people and is typically seen in late summer to early fall each year in Michigan.
State officials say Thursday’s discovery underscores the need for both horse owners and Michigan residents to take precautions, as EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. with a 90% fatality rate among horses that become ill and a 33% fatality rate among humans.
“The Livingston County horse was never vaccinated against EEE, and it developed signs of illness – including fever, lethargy and depression – which progressed to the animal exhibiting neurologic signs and being down on the ground with an inability to get up,” Wineland said. “The horse was euthanized due to her declining condition. It is critically important for horse owners to reach out to their veterinarian to discuss how to best protect their animals from this disease.”
Those measures could include:
- Talking to a vet about vaccinating horses against EEE
- Placing horses in a barn under fans – as mosquitoes are not strong flyers – during peak mosquito activity from dusk to dawn
- Using an insect repellent on the animals approved for the species
- Eliminating standing water on the property
- Contacting a veterinarian if a horse shows signs of illness
People can also be infected with EEE from the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus.
The disease doesn’t spread by horse-to-horse or horse-to-human contact.
In humans, signs of EEE include the sudden onset of fever, chills and body and joint aches.
The virus can also cause severe encephalitis, resulting in headaches, disorientation, tremors, seizures and paralysis.
Permanent brain damage, coma and death may occur in some cases.