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Experts: 11 Ga. horses have Eastern Equine Encephalitis
EEE can affect humans; carried by mosquitoes
Mosquito photo
Eleven horses have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis over the past two months in the Bulloch County area, though none in Bulloch. Health officials are urging people to uses a strong mosquito repellent, as the insects can pass on the disease to humans if they are infected. - photo by Special
   While no cases have been reported in Bulloch and surrounding counties, health experts report 11 horses in Georgia tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis over the past two months.
    The disease is carried by mosquitoes and affects not only horses, but birds and humans, said Southeast Health District Public Relations/Information Coordinator  Roger Naylor.
    People can't get the disease from horses or birds, but Eastern Equine Encephalitis is spread through mosquito bites, he said. There is a vaccine for horses, but not for humans. Prevention of being bitten is the key to avoiding the sickness, he said.
    There have been five cases of EEE confirmed in Wayne County; two in Brantley County and one each in Appling, Atkinson, Charlton and Coffee counties. No human cases of EEE have been reported within the public health district, he said.
    Known as " sleeping sickness,"   is caused by a  virus carried by infected mosquitoes. It is a "type of encephalitis, a general term meaning an acute inflammation involving parts of the brain, spinal cord and meninges," he said.    There is no specific treatment once an animal or person develops encephalitis.  Symptoms include a  high fever (103° to 106°F), stiff neck, headache and lack of energy and appear two to 10 days after infection. Swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous symptom, and the disease progresses quickly, Naylor said.
    While no reports have been made of EEE in the area, it is still wise to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, said Brad Wiggins, Bulloch County Environmental Health Manager.
    "Limit your time outside during times when they are most active, such as night time," he said. "Cover up with good clothing that will protect you and use an insecticide with DEET®, if it's age appropriate."DEET® is not to be used on small children, he said.
    "We urge residents to take the necessary precautions to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes," said Dr. Rosemarie Parks, SEHD medical director. "Mosquitoes are most active an hour before and after sunrise and sunset."
    EEE is found in the eastern United States from Canada to Florida, in all areas east of the Mississippi river, according to information Naylor provided.  It can affect people of all ages and can be fatal — while most people who are infected with EEE show no symptoms, 30 to 50 percent of those who develop encephalitis risk death, he said.
    Infection with EEE can result in post-recovery  seizures, mental retardation and paralysis, he said.
    Aside from headache, fever and lack of energy, the symptoms of EEE can also include muscle aches, seizures, vomiting and mental confusion, he said.
    Mosquito control is highly important in decreasing the danger of EEE infection, Naylor said.
    Wiggins suggested removing all possible breeding areas from your property, such as "old flower pots, old tires — these can be mosquito breeding grounds," he said. "Just turn  them over" to eliminate the standing water.
    Naylor also recommended repairing window screens and doors.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.  
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