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State urges vaccinations after horse dies of EEE in Cumberland County

Posted July 15, 2015

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— A Cumberland County quarter horse that died is the state’s first confirmed case of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis this year, officials said Wednesday.

There were 12 recorded cases of the mosquito-borne virus in North Carolina last year, and officials are encouraging residents to vaccinate their horses, mules and donkeys.

“The virus has been detected in North Carolina for many years and is considered endemic, meaning the virus is now commonly found in the state, and horse owners should take appropriate measures to protect their equine,” Department of Agriculture officials said in a statement.

State veterinarian officials recommend horses receive an initial two-dose vaccine, followed by booster shots every six months.

EEE causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord, and it’s usually fatal. Afflicted horses may wander aimlessly, have an irregular gait, may be unable to swallow or have convulsions.

Symptoms appear three to 10 days after a horse is bitten by an infected mosquito.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the disease, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately,” State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said. “Several serious contagious diseases, such as West Nile virus, equine herpes virus and rabies, have similar symptoms and should be ruled out.”

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