Cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) have been confirmed in Arkansas in horses at two separate locations in Pulaski County, according to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.
EEE is an extremely rare but serious and fatal infection that causes encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain. The disease is spread by biting insects, primarily mosquitoes and flies that have bitten birds infected with the EEE virus (EEEV). Insect control and vaccination are the recommended preventative measures.
EEE can infect a wide range of animals other than horses, including other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. While humans can also contract the disease through biting insects, they cannot get the disease through direct contact with an infected animal.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is urging owners to closely monitor their equine for early clinical signs, which include loss of appetite, decreased activity, and depression. Clinical signs can be subtle and progress to tremors, paralysis, altered mental state, and stumbling (ataxia). Some affected horses die within a few days. Surviving animals may have residual nerve deficits.
Owners should contact their regular veterinarian for more advice and to report any nervous system signs. Those without a regular veterinarian should call the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Division (ALPD) at 501-297-2250 if any horses show clinical signs.
A quarantine order has been issued for affected premises in Pulaski County. The ALPD is communicating with the primary parties and notifying other officials of active equine venues within the state.