Oneida County's first EEE case of the year claims life of horse in Westmoreland

By WKTV News

WESTMORELAND, N.Y. (WKTV) - The first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Oneida County this year has been confirmed, Oneida County Health Department officials said Wednesday.

A horse in Westmoreland, which was suffering from neurological symptoms associated with EEE, was euthanized last week and subsequent testing confirmed the virus.

"It's actually a virus primarily seen in birds and actually horses pick it up from mosquito bites that have bitten an infected bird," said Dr. Frank Mondi of the New Hartford Animal Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Oneida County Health Department reported that its first positive mosquito pool was discovered in the western part of the county bordering Oswego County. This is the same area that produced a number of positive EEE samples in August of last year resulting in aerial spraying to suppress the adult mosquito population.

"The Health Department has been routinely testing mosquito pools in the area where the horse contracted the virus but had seen no positive specimens to date," Dr. Gayle Jones, Director of Health said. She added, "Our first positive results comes from a mosquito pool collected miles from the site of the sickened horse and involve a species of mosquito 'Culisetta Melanura ' that rarely bites humans, and feeds almost exclusively on birds."

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is considered among the most serious mosquito-borne viruses. Horses are susceptible to the illness which almost always proves fatal to the animal. If contracted by humans, EEE can produce symptoms ranging from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death in about a third of those affected.

While horses can not transmit the disease, there is still the very real risk of transmission via the mosquitoes that started it all.

"The real dangers, obviously other than the equine population, is the human population, because if they're infected by the mosquito that is carrying the virus, it can cause severe illness, encephalitis and death," Dr. Mondi said.

According to the health department, positive EEE mosquito pools had previously been reported this year in neighboring Oswego County.

"If you're going to be in those [infected] areas, make sure you have bug repellent on you," Dr. Mondi said. "Especially making sure you have a way of warding off the mosquitoes."

For more information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or other mosquito-borne illnesses call the Oneida County Health Department at 315-798-5064 or visit their website at www.ocgov.net.





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