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Mosquito-borne disease appears in Clarke County

By By Jared Florreich / staff writer
July 15, 2003
A rare, mosquito-borne virus that could cause fever, flu-like symptoms and disorientation in humans has been found in a horse in Clarke County.
The disease is called Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis and is more commonly known as sleeping sickness.
Veterinarian Otis Seal, who diagnosed the horse, said Monday he has seen two major outbreaks of the disease in the early 1980s and 1990s. Seal said that another major outbreak could be starting.
Dr. Mary Currier, state epidemiologist with the Mississippi Department of Health, said the disease is similar to the West Nile Virus another mosquito-borne illness that created problems last summer.
Currier said Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis is rare in humans, and is more deadly than West Nile. Besides fever, flu-like symptoms and possible disorientation, she said, victims also could become comatose.
Seal and Currier said there is no reason to be alarmed.
Seal said recent rains are the likely reason for the reappearance of the disease.
Currier agreed: "The important thing is to be careful. If you're out during heavy mosquito-active times, wear long sleeves, pants, and spray yourself with a mosquito repellent."
Although there is no specific treatment for horses, there is a vaccine that can prevent the disease for horses.
Seal said the disease likely will not be contracted by family pets such as dogs and cats.