Deadly horse virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis confirmed in South Carolina

South Carolina News

MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The year’s first case of deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been reported in a South Carolina horse.

A Tennessee Walking Horse stallion from Marion County was infected and had to be euthanized, according to Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health (LPH), which is a state regulatory agency.

“The infected horse, a 15-month-old Tennessee Walking Horse stallion from Marion County, had not been vaccinated and had to be euthanized,” said Sean Eastman, a veterinarian and LPH Animal Health Programs field services director.

Wild birds and mosquitos spread the virus, and it often kills the horse if they are not vaccinated.

Researchers say symptoms often develop anywhere between two and five days after exposure.

Although not communicable from horses directly to people, humans are also susceptible to the mosquito-borne virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report only a few cases of the disease in people each year, but nearly a third of people who contract EEE die and many survivors suffer ongoing neurologic problems, according to the agency.

“We have effective equine vaccinations available against diseases like EEE and West Nile Virus (WNV) and it is crucial that horses be vaccinated,” said Boyd Parr, South Carolina state veterinarian and LPH director. “Horses don’t get SAR2-CoV-2, but they do get EEE and WNV if left unvaccinated and these are very deadly to them.”

Parr said horse owners should check with their veterinarians to be sure vaccinations are up to date.

South Carolina reported only a single case of WNV and just five EEE cases in all of 2019; however, the state led the nation in cases of the disease with 49 EEE-infected horses, all unvaccinated, in 2013. Of those, 48 died.

Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center currently provides testing for EEE and WNV at no charge thanks to an agreement with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

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