Two horses in the Dunnville area have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus earlier this month after showing neurological symptoms. Reports indicate that neither horse was vaccinated against the virus.
Although the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has not had a report of a horse positive for the virus since 2009, this serves as notice that the virus continues to circulate in the area.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (sometimes called “Triple E” or sleeping sickness) is a virus that effects mostly horses and birds and is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted to humans through mosquitos.
Most people infected will not develop symptoms. However, in severe cases, the infected person can have a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or even coma.
Fortunately, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) has not received any reports of human cases in Haldimand or Norfolk and its mosquito surveillance program has not had any mosquitoes test positive for the virus to date.
“With recent surveillance finding mosquitoes positive for West Nile virus and now two horses with Eastern equine encephalitis, it’s clear we shouldn’t become complacent when it comes to protecting ourselves from mosquito bites,” said Kris Lutzi, senior public health inspector for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.
The HNHU suggests the following to protect yourself from mosquito bites: Apply insect repellent containing DEET or icardin following the manufacturer’s instructions; Wear light-coloured clothing, long sleeves and pants if possible; Take extra care during dawn and dusk as this is peak mosquito biting time; Remove standing water from your property where mosquitoes can breed; Make sure your home, tents and campers have tight fitting screens on windows and doors.
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is also reminding horse owners to remain vigilant with having their animals vaccinated against the Eastern equine encephalitis virus. Other steps to protect equines include: Reduce standing water sites (e.g. install aerators or any method that creates water surface movement in ponds); If possible, avoid placing horses outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; Avoid riding horses or placing horses in areas that are favorable mosquito habitats (low wet pastures or bush areas).
Ensure that your barn has tight-fitting screens over the windows and doors; Use yellow incandescent lights or fluorescent lights in the barn as these are considered less attractive to mosquitoes; Hire a licensed pest management company to properly assess your property and safely apply pesticides to control mosquitoes. These companies are listed under Pest Control in the Yellow Pages; Carefully apply appropriate insecticides to horses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For more information on Eastern equine encephalitis virus, visit hnhu.org.