Usually it’s typical to see this number around July.
But this year a human has contracted the disease, which is very rare.
Owning a horse in Washington County is very common.
Having your horse die in 24 hours is not.
But that’s exactly what happened to five horses in the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve seen a number of cases of encephalitis this summer. July is usually our worst month when we have plenty of mosquitoes.” Panhandle Veterinarian Dr. George said.
Eastern equine encephalitis is the most deadly mosquito-borne illness.
The insect contracts the virus from a bird, and then it bites a horse, leaving the horse in an extremely dazed state.
“Once these horses come down with encephalitis they seize, they become incumbent. Once they go down they can’t stand and usually within 24 to 48 hours they are dead or have to be humanely euthanized.” George said.
Officials say it’s usually around this time of year when horses will get this disease but its extremely rare for it to happen to a human.
“It’s more likely for horses to get it, but it can happen.” Washington County Mosquito Control Director Amanda Baker said.
And it did, a healthy 38 year old man who works for Dr. George contracted it.
“He went home two days prior to being admitted to a hospital in Dothan complaining of nausea and headaches and the bright lights bothered him. He was admitted to Dothan where he became unconscious and this is his 18th day of being unconscious.” George said.
The disease is preventable in horses if they are vaccinated, but humans aren’t so lucky.
“There is no vaccine for humans because humans contract it so rarely or come down with the disease so rarely.” George said.
That's why area health departments are warning residents to practice the 4 d's.
Avoid being outdoors during dusk or dawn.
Dress with clothing that covers the skin
Use DEET repellant to keep mosquitoes away
And get rid of drainage around the home where mosquitoes can nest.
Health officials are urging residents to follow these instructions because rain is a constant in the summer.
Dr. George says the horses who died from the disease, were not vaccinated or had not been revaccinated for months.
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