Sudden appearance of equine encephalitis has health officials warning of mosquitoes

Summer’s rainy season means mosquitoes are back with a vengeance, and so mosquito-born diseases are returning, too.

By Stacey Singer

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Summer’s rainy season means mosquitoes are back with a vengeance, and so mosquito-born diseases are returning, too.

The Martin County Health Department warned Tuesday that two sentinel chickens from its early warning flock have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis, a viral disease that can be fatal to horses, and on rare occasions sickens humans, too.

It’s the first time that eastern equine encephalitis has been seen in Martin County in 30 years, the Martin County Health Department said.

Several mosquito-born germs that are dangerous to humans use birds as hosts, and so health agencies keep outdoor chicken flocks, taking blood samples as a way to track those diseases.

In Palm Beach County last year another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile encephalitis, appeared twice in chickens. There were no known human cases. Meanwhile, another mosquito-borne Dengue fever has been acquired locally in Key West this year, leading health officials here to warn doctors to be on the alert for the seldom-seen tropical disease.

Dengue fever is known in the Caribbean as “bone-break fever.” Frontal headache, pain behind the eyes, weakness, malaise, nausea and vomiting are typical symptoms, and they last about a week in most cases.

The appearance of Eastern equine encephalitis in Martin County is a big concern for the equestrian community. Veterinarians urged horse owners to make sure their animals are current on the vaccine.

“I have never seen a horse survive eastern equine encephalitis,” said Dr. Ben L. Schachter, a veterinarian with Wellington Equine Associates. “It gets into their central nervous system and causes all kinds of problems. Seizures, high fevers, strange behaviors.”

Schachter recommends his horse patients be vaccinated against the virus quarterly. If they haven’t had their booster within the past three months, they need to be revaccinated now, he said.

While Eastern equine encephalitis is dangerous for horses, it usually produces mild or no symptoms in humans, health agencies said. There are exceptions, though.

“Most people who become sick from mosquitoes have mild symptoms like headache, fever, dizziness and fatigue, but more severe symptoms are possible,” said Renay Rouse, spokeswoman for the Martin County Health Department. “Anyone with severe symptoms should contact their primary care physician or seek immediate medical care.”

Florida is a national hot spot for Eastern equine encephalitis, with 75 known cases in animals last year, but nearly all were in northern Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The appearance of the disease known as this far south means it’s time for everyone to take precautions, health officials said.

“The mosquito season is here,” said Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman Tim O’Connor. “Be aware that they are out and biting at dawn and dusk. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and use an effective insect repellent.”

Stacey_Singer@pbpost.com

VIA: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sudden-appearance-of-equine-encephalitis-has-health-officials-762311.html

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: