Lee County-- The appearance of this fatal illness is causing concern among public health officials. Five horses are known to be infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Atkinson, Bryan, Clinch, Mitchell, and Tift counties.
This form of encephalitis is primarily a disease of birds, but it can be transmitted through mosquitoes to horses, or even humans.
And it's fatal. Nearly 90 percent of infected horses will die, 30 percent of people who contract the disease will not survive it. "The Eastern Encephalitis is usually more severe than the West Nile," says Veterinarian Dr. Frank Spelts.
Juliet Carden is welcoming a new foal into her Lee County farm. "We have approximately 40 horses in Albany, the majority our brood mares and foals."
Juliet is going about the business of the farm-- she and her veterinarian, Dr. Frank Spelts, are checking to see if an Arabian mare is ready to breed. She says she can't be worried about her horses contracting Eastern Encephalitis. "But, you know that just comes with the business. There are a lot of things we have to be concerned about besides even the viruses they can catch."
"There are medications that may help the horse, and may help save some of them, the Eastern is probably over 90 percent fatal," said Dr. Spelts.
Dr. Spelts treated horses with the mosquito-borne disease. "Over the years, seen quite a number of them. Last year we saw a good bit of them, both the Eastern Encephalitis and the West Nile, we saw several cases of that last year."
But, this year, the disease is showing up earlier than predicted, but Dr. Spelts says the best protection is too simply innoculate the horses, something this horse owner says she never forgets to do.
"Twice a year, we do spring and fall shots, so they are vaccinated against encephalitis."
A simple vaccination can save many horses from what would otherwise be a sure death. The best people-protection is mosquito repellents containing DEET-- but children under two years of age should not use products with DEET.
Also eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around your home, like flower pots and buckets, anything that collects water.