ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) – Two horses in North Carolina have been euthanized after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, a mosquito-borne disease preventable by vaccination.
Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Division, tells WMBF News that the two unvaccinated horses showed signs of general weakness, stumbling, depression and were unable to stand or eat.
Both of the deceased horses were Quarter horses. One was a 2-year-old Robeson County mare; the other a 7-year-old stallion from Bladen County.
Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord and is often fatal. Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death.
Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for signs of the disease to appear.
Ray admits that the health of the Robeson County horse deteriorated quickly, and was euthanized within 24 hours. The Bladen County horse was suffering from symptoms for weeks.
"If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately," said State Veterinarian David Marshall. "Several serious contagious diseases, such as Equine Herpes Virus and rabies, have similar symptoms and should be ruled out."
The death of these horses presents the first case of EEE reported in horses this year. One sentinel chicken flock was reportedly infected in New Hanover County last week.
The best way to prevent EEE is by having your horse vaccinated against the disease.