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BCHD issues mosquito advisory after virus found in two horses

The Baker County Health Department issued a mosquito-borne illness advisory today following the discovery of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) in two horses in Baker County.

Horses can be vaccinated for EEEV and West-Nile Virus by a licensed veterinarian. Terry Graham, the county's environmental health director said local vet Dr. Harrison quote him $35 for the vaccine if horses are brought to the office. There is no vaccine for humans, however, but Mr. Graham said its rare for humans to become infected.

He said the mosquito that's infected with EEEV prefers to feed on birds in fresh swampy areas, which basically encompasses all of Florida. The risk to humans is if the mosquito spreads the virus to a bird that in turn spreads it to another mosquito that feeds on humans.

No cases of the virus infecting humans has been found in Baker County.

One of the horses in Baker County was euthanized, a 2-year-old quarter horse from Plantation Road in Macclenny that became sick on July 10, health department records show. It was never vaccinated.

The second horse, a 1-year old quarter horse from Eddy Grade Road in Sanderson survived. EEEV's onset in the animal was logged on July 16. It had an old or incomplete vaccination, the records note.

Symptoms of EEEV infection in humans may include fever, general muscle pain and headache. As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms like seizures and coma may occur. Peak activity for the virus spans from May to August.

The state recommends a "drain and cover" strategy to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illness. That is, drain any standing water, cover your skin to reduce exposure and use a mosquito repellent on any bare skin and clothing. The advisory says repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR 3535 are effective.

Mr. Graham said mosquito-borne illnesses are "entrenched" in the U.S. "They are here to stay," he said.

For more information click this link from the Florida Department of Health, or call the county health department at 259-6291.

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