Washington County Health Officials Warn Against Dangerous Virus

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WASHINGTON COUNTY-- Washington County Health Officials said they have confirmed at least two cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in two animals.

They’re warning residents to protect themselves against the potentially deadly mosquito borne illness. Fortunately, the transmission of the virus is easily preventable.

The Florida Department of Health in Washington County are reporting two horses that have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

"July is typically the month that we see the most, but we've had a lot of rain this year, so we'll have a lot of mosquitoes, and the birds migrate, bring the virus and then the mosquitoes spread it from the birds to the horses," explained Panhandle Veterinarian Services Owner Kim George.

Veterinarians said 98 percent of the time the horses diagnosed with EEE die in about one to two days.

"It shows up first as a really high fever, depression, sluggishness, blindness, staggering, circling, unable to stand. It's a terrible death for the horses," said George.

Even though the disease is most commonly seen in horses, human are also at risk of contracting it. Symptoms include dizziness and fatigue.

"One was about eight years ago that she caught it and she is still having trouble. She still hurts," explained Sunshine Riding Trails Owner Kathy Rich. "The other lady has memory lost from it. That was six to eight years ago that they caught it and it will probably be with them for the rest of their lives."

Officials said you can vaccinate your horses against EEE. People can protect themselves by removing the threat of mosquitoes.

Drain standing water, cover your skin and use insect repellent containing the ingredient Deet.

"The best thing to do is minimize mosquito exposure, don't be out early in the morning and late in the afternoon, dusk and dawn. Cover up unwanted, opened water," said George.

The two horses that tested positive for the virus were euthanized.