Florida Ag Commissioner issues warning about Eastern equine encephalomyelitis


The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is reminding the horse community to be on the lookout for Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE), viral disease that can impact horses and humans.

The state recently confirmed its ninth case, which lead to a horse being euthanized in Gilchrist County.

“Despite being rare, EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S., with typically a third of cases resulting in death,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said. “It’s imperative that those working with horses watch closely for EEE signs, and everyone who ventures outside in Florida should take basic steps to avoid mosquito bites.”

The disease can be transmitted to humans and horses through mosquitoes. It is among the more serious of a mosquito-borne virus diseases because it can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications. The most common symptoms in humans are seizures, vomiting and focal neurological deficits, while the most common symptoms in horses are fever, sleepy appearance, fatigue and muscle twitches in the head, neck and shoulders.

Here are some ways to protect against EEE:

- Vaccinate horses against EEE, administered properly with boosters 2-3 times per year
- Minimize horse exposure to mosquitoes during peak mosquito feeding times of dawn and dusk
- Apply appropriate mosquito repellant, following label directions, to reduce mosquito bites on horses
- Drain unnecessary standing water found in wheelbarrows, tires, and similar spaces
- Clean water containers such as birdbaths at least weekly
- Schedule pasture irrigation to minimize standing water
- Keep swimming pools optimally chlorinated
- Stock water tanks with larvae-consuming fish or use commercially-available mosquito dunks