EEE is a viral disease that normally cycles between wild birds and mosquitoes. As the virus infection rate increases in birds it is more likely to be transmitted by an infected mosquito that bites horses and humans. The virus abruptly attacks the central nervous system. EEE cannot be transmitted from horse to horse, or from a horse to a human. Horses and humans are considered “dead-end” hosts which means if infected they cannot transmit the virus back to feeding mosquitoes.
As a reportable zoonotic disease, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) were made aware of the positive test result.
Of the neurologic diseases that affect horses, EEE has the highest mortality rate. Classic signs of EEE include flaccid (droopy) lips, dullness, muscle fasciculation, ataxia and head pressing. Symptoms for neurologic diseases can present similarly so diagnostic testing is recommended for a definitive diagnosis.
Highly effective vaccines are available for EEE, Western Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus. These equine neurologic diseases are preventable with proper vaccination. Owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine vaccination needs.
For more information on TVMDL’s equine neurologic disease testing, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu, or contact the agency headquarters at 1.888.646.5623.