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Eastern Equine Encephalitis

October 16 2019

Have you heard mention of Eastern equine encephalitis—or EEE, for short—in the news lately? This dangerous disease is on the rise here in Michigan. EEE can affect both horses and humans. Although it is most often seen in equines and camelids, such as llamas, it can affect all animals, including dogs and cats. In fact, it recently killed two rare Mexican wolf pups at Binder Park Zoo. An Upper Peninsula, MI vet discusses EEE in this article.

EEE In Large Animals

EEE affects the central nervous system, and causes severe brain inflammation. The first signs of infection usually come on fairly quickly, within a few days of infection. Some of the things to watch for in equines and  camelids include high fevers; muscle twitches, especially in the head, neck, shoulder, and flanks; weakness; a wobbly gait; and lethargy. Once these initial symptoms appear, the disease progresses rapidly. Unfortunately, there is no cure or effective treatment for large animals. The fatality rate for them is about 90 percent. Those that do survive often suffer brain damage.

EEE in People

As mentioned above, EEE is also very dangerous to humans, though it’s more often found in horses. With people, its fatality rate is about 30 percent. As you may have heard, the disease is spreading this year, with almost 30 deaths reported so far. To learn more about how EEE affects people, and how to protect yourself, check the CDC site here .


The EEE virus is not spread directly from one animal to another. Instead, it’s transmitted by everyone’s favorite insect: the mosquito. Mosquitos get it from feeding on birds that carry the virus. EEE is always an active threat, and there are cases every year. However, most of the time, these are few and far between. In years with mosquito ‘booms,’ like this year, EEE becomes more widespread. (This is also what happened back in 1831, when 75 horses died from the disease.) It’s important to note that animals with EEE are not directly contagious. Only mosquitos that have fed on infected birds transmit the disease. Therefore, there is no need for quarantines.

Keeping Animals Safe

There is some good news. While EEE cannot be effectively treated, there is a vaccine available for large animals. Mosquito control is also important. Don’t leave water standing in troughs or buckets, and make sure your pasture has good drainage. Keep large fans on in barns for good airflow. You can also take steps to help mosquito predators, such as bats and birds, flourish on your property. As for Fluffy and Fido, we recommend keeping cats indoors, and trying to limit Fido’s exposure to mosquitos. Ask your vet for more information.

Do you have questions about EEE? Contact us, your Upper Peninsula, MI vet clinic, today!

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