ELKHART — While Eastern Equine Encephalitis continues to spread among humans and animals in several states, the mosquito-borne virus has already infected 11 horses in northern Indiana.
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health says 10 of those horses have either died or had to be euthanized because of the impacts the disease has on their nervous system.
Denise Derrer, PIO with Indiana’s BOAH says says the virus has been confirmed in nine horses in Elkhart County and two horses in LaGrange County. So far the virus has not been detected in animals or mosquitoes any further south.
Last week, Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek Michigan announced that two of their Mexican wolf pups had died after contracting the virus. The zoo said the virus is "extremely rare" in canines.
“Although EEE infection in canines is very, very rare, there have been a few cases previously reported in domestic dog puppies. All species considered highly susceptible to EEE infection at the zoo, including domestic and non-domestic equine species and ostriches, are vaccinated on a yearly basis.” said Dr. Kim Thompson, staff veterinarian at Binder Park Zoo, in a press release.
We reached out to the Indianapolis Zoo to see if they were taking any extra precautions because of the close proximity of the animals infected. The zoo says they work closely with the Marion County Health Department on traping and testing mosquitoes and treating the zoo grounds. They also take an "abundance of precaution" when it comes to treating for the bugs because of the disease they can carry.
Read their full statement below.
“We work with the Marion County Health Department on trapping and testing mosquitoes, and treating the Zoo grounds. We also remove areas of standing water and treat areas of water that can’t be moved. We take an abundance of caution when treating for mosquitoes because they can carry many types of diseases.”
EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in the United States and is fatal to approximately 30 percent of people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those who survive are more likely to have severe ongoing neurological problems.
On average, around seven cases of EEE are reported in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC, and most of those cases occur in the eastern or Gulf Coast states. The positive tests in northern Indiana come in the wake of at least seven human deaths — including three in Michigan — from the disease so far this year, and reports that at least 27 people have tested positive for the disease in six states.
The incubation period for EEEV disease ranges from four to 10 days from the date a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC. An EEEV infection can result in two types of illness, either systemic or encephalitic, depending on the person's age and a number of other factors.
In humans, the virus invades the central nervous system and causes inflammation in the brain. About 30% of people who contract EEE die, and many of those who survive have ongoing neurological problems, according to the CDC .
Symptoms of EEE are similar to that of the flu and include:
· Sudden onset of headache
· High fever
· More severe symptoms of EEE include: