Part of the problem with mosquito-borne illnesses becoming more prevalent is the mosquito itself. The Asian Tiger Mosquito (ATM) has invaded the southeastern USA; it was carried from Asia in container loads of used tires that were not inspected for mosquitoes and falls under the heading of "invasive species". This new breed of skeeter is particularly well-suited for spreading diseases. The University of Florida is trying to educate people that the mosquitoes around them have changed their stripes.
As convoys of horse vans and trailers prepare to head north from Florida after the winter polo, horse show and racing seasons end next month, the warm climate that lured horsemen to the Sunshine State may play a cruel and deadly trick on them.
Already, nine cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been confirmed in Florida since the beginning of 2008, even though the peak season does not begin until May. There were a total of 18 cases of EEE in 2007 for the entire year.
Sadly, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture, six of the dead horses had not been vaccinated and two had not received booster shots. Only one horse was current with vaccinations.
EEE is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Signs of the virus include fever, listlessness, stumbling, circling, coma and usually death. The disease is fatal in horses in 90% of the cases.
So far this year EEE has been confirmed in horses in Putnam, Lake, Polk, Columbia, Clay and Volusia counties, all of which were fatal. Volusia has been hit the hardest, with four of the nine cases having been found there.
If you live in Florida and if you have been in the state with your horses recently (or plan to go), please consult your health records and be certain that the horse's vaccination status for EEE is up to date.
For more information, and continuing updates on occurences of the disease in Florida, please read the state's Department of Agriculture web site's recent update.