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Thursday 27th October 2016

Equine encephalitis in Florida

2nd August 2010

A woman and an infant living in Florida have died of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a rare disease that comes from mosquito bites.


Both cases occurred in the Tampa area, on Florida's west coast.

Health officials advised residents to wear protective clothing, and to avoid being outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes tended to feed on humans.

State health authorities in Florida have also detected an increase in cases of the disease among horses.

There is currently no vaccine for the disease.

Steve Huard, spokesman for the Hillsborough health department in Tampa, said that the disease was fairly rare.

Usually, only a few cases of EEE are reported every year, usually in the Atlantic and Gulf coast areas of the eastern US.

The disease, although rare, is dangerous, with a death rate of 33%, frequently leaving survivors brain damaged.

Huard said that there was often plenty of standing water in Hillsborough county, and that health authorities were trying to diminish the mosquito population by spraying pesticides.

In horses, outbreaks of EEE usually happen during the rainy summer season.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said that people had reported 60 cases of EEE among horses so far this summer.

Florida's horse populations have also had a few cases of West Nile disease, another mosquito-borne viral illness that can have a similar set of symptoms, if it is severe.

Bronson said that horse owners should have their animals vaccinated against both EEE and West Nile virus, and that his organisation had noticed that most horses were not currently vaccinated against EEE.

He said that, since mosquito populations were growing, people needed to be prepared for the worst.

In horses, EEE is almost always fatal, although West Nile virus is not. Feverish, listless, or stumbling horses may be infected with EEE. Bronson said that more and more horses were dying from West Nile virus and EEE.

These two viruses are not the first to make a comeback in Florida, with dengue fever also on the rise for the first time in nearly a century.


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