Two quarter horses have been euthanized in North Carolina after agriculture department officials determine they had contracted Easter Equine Encephalomyelitis, a mosquito-borne disease.
The horses, a two-year old Robeson county mare and a seven-year old Bladen County stallion, exhibited signs of generalized weakness, stumbling, depression and inability to stand or eat. The cases are the first reported of EEE in horses in the Tarheel State this year. A week earlier, however, New Hanover County officials reported that EEE was found in a sentinel chicken flock.
"If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately," says N.C. State Veterinarian David Marshall. "Several serious contagious diseases, such as Equine Herpes Virus and rabies, have similar symptoms and should be ruled out."
In Robeson County, the horse deteriorated so quickly that it was euthanized within 24 hours of first exhibiting symptoms. The Bladen County horse had symptoms for several weeks before being euthanized earlier this month. Testing at Rollins Laboratory confirmed EEE the week the case was announced to the public (the week of July 17).
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. People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the virus to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.