The mosquito-borne diseases eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile (WNV) continue to rear their ugly heads in the northeast as we get further into the late summer season during which they are most common.
On August 13 there was an unconfirmed report of a case of West Nile in a horse at Woodbine Racetrack, just north of Toronto. No additional details have been forthcoming regarding the severity of the infection or the status of the horse, if WNV infection has in fact been diagnosed. Nonetheless, the Ontario HBPA is urging horse owners to ensure the vaccination status of their animals for West Nile is up-to-date. Unfortunately, if horses are not already vaccinated at this point, even vaccinating them immediately may still leave them susceptible to virus for the next few weeks until they are able to fully respond to the vaccine. This news follows close on the heels of news reports regarding increased numbers of WNV-positive mosquito pools in various regions north of Toronto, and thus is not altogether surprising.
The first case of West Nile in a human in New Jersey was recently diagnosed in a man from Mercer County. Again, no additional details about the severity of the infection or the man’s condition are available, but the public is once again being urged to protect themselves against mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellant, and eliminating standing water in which mosquitoes may breed on their property. Elsewhere the death on August 14 of a four-year-old girl in New York from infection with EEE has been reported. She is the fifth person in New York state to die from the disease in 40 years. The girl first began showing signs of infection earlier this month, but the diagnosis of EEE infection was only reached last week. EEE has a high mortality rate in humans as well as horses. Just as infection in animals can act as sentinel indicators for disease risk in humans, these human cases indicate that WNV and EEE are active in these respective areas, and humans and horses alike are at risk of infection. Mosquito avoidance can help protect both, and in addition timely vaccination of horses can help decrease the risk of disease.