Veterinarians Warn About Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Some Northwest Florida veterinarians say they're seeing an increase in Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Weakness, blindness, fever and staggering are just some symptoms horses exhibit when they are infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The disease is carried by some mosquitoes and can be fatal.

The horse cannot pass the disease to people; however, owners do have to be careful when handling their sick horse.

"When someone has a neurological horse, a horse that is not acting right, they want to put their hands in the mouth to give it water and that sort of thing. We really encourage you to keep your hands away from its mouth because rabies is a differential and it makes the final resolution of the animal much more difficult when you are in final contact," said Dr.Todd Anderson.

Treatment is available, but usually by the time a vet can get to the infected animal it is too late.

Experts say EEE can and should be prevented.

"Routine vaccinations; if we try to get them out there and vaccinated, we can extend their life," added Dr. Anderson.

Some horse owners say it is important to get the vaccination and it is a small price to pay for such an expensive pet.

"All of my horses are registered, so I have invested a lot of money in them. And, for the goodness of this vaccine, it gives me a piece of mind," said John Brundage.

The cost of the vaccine varies, but on average it costs $15. A veterinarian or the owner can administer the shot to the horse.

Because humans can also contract Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the Florida Department of Health urges you to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

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