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Encephalitis - Mosquito-Borne Disease

Arboviral Encephalitides

In simple terms, arboviral refers to a disease that is transmitted by an arthropod such as a mosquito to a host, usually a human, bird or animal.  Learn how EEE is one of the diseases horses get from the bite of a mosquito.


Encephalitis, found  in various forms such as St. Louis, Western Equine, LaCrosse, and Eastern Equine, is endemic to the United States and increasing in incidence.  Some of these encephalitides, like Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), are becoming more serious in their effects on humans, horses and birds.





What is Eastern Equine Encephalitis?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, commonly referred to as EEE, is a vector disease transmitted by mosquitoes to humans and horses.


Those who work in the outdoors and those who live close to the freshwater swamps along the eastern U.S., Great Lakes areas, and Gulf Coast states are in prime habitat areas for EEE-transmitting mosquitoes.  Caution should be taken if traveling to an endemic area.


There are certain variables that come into play when looking at EEE in people.  Age does seem to play a role in the severity of the disease, with adults over 50 years of age and children under 15 being the hardest hit.


Although there is a vaccine for horses, at present, there is no vaccine for humans. 


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EEE is maintained in nature through a cycle between the Culiseta Melanura mosquito and birds that live in freshwater swamps.


Although Culiseta Melanura do not bite humans, other mosquitoes, such as Aedes aegypti, Culex pipiens, and Coquillettidia perturbans will "cross bite“ – bite an infected bird and then bite a human or animal (horse, emu, and other exotic birds) – thereby spreading the disease. Known as bridge vectors, they may take a meal from a bird and later take another meal from a mammal, transmitting the disease from one host to another.


Since EEE is one of the diseases horses get from the bite of a mosquito, a horse vaccine has been made.  At present, there is not a vaccine for humans.  An effective mosquito control system can offer protection against mosquitoes and the mosquito-borne diseases they carry.


It should be noted that horses do not transmit the disease to humans, nor can people spread the disease to others.


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Although not everyone who has been infected with the EEE virus develops symptoms, for others the illness can be quite devastating.  Symptoms usually occur within 2-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.


These symptoms include high fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion, and lethargy. Encephalitis, swelling of the brain, is the most dangerous symptom.


EEE has a 30% - 60% mortality rate once contracted. Severe damage to the central nervous system occurs in about half of those that survive the illness.


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