NC Sees First 2017 Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis Case

Drawings of horses by Gordon S. Reublin in 1938-39.
Drawings of horses by Gordon S. Reublin in 1938-39.

State Vet Encourages Equine Owners to Vaccinate Animals

By Dr. Mike Neault, NCDA&CS Veterinary Division

A 16-year-old paint horse in Cabarrus County, North Carolina has died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE).

EEE is a mosquito-borne disease that is preventable in equine by vaccination. This is the first confirmed case of EEE in North Carolina this year.

EEE causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord and is usually fatal. Symptoms include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions, and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take 3-10 days for signs of the disease to appear.

Said NC’s State Veterinarian Doug Meckes:

“If your horses exhibit any symptoms of EEE, contact your veterinarian immediately. And if your horses aren’t vaccinated, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating them as soon as possible against EEE and West Nile virus.”

The vaccinations initially require two shots, 30 days apart, for horses, mules, and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. Meckes recommends a booster shot every six months in North Carolina because of the state’s prolonged mosquito season.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to West Nile Virus (WNV) or EEE. Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans and turning off lights after dusk can also help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Insect repellents can be effective if used according to manufacturers’ instructions.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.


Ed. Note: According to the Horse Channel, “Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. Encephalomyelitis is inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.”

Reported cases of EEE are tracked by year and may be viewed on the the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) website here.

The Pender County Cooperative Extension website includes a 2009 article with detailed information at…/eastern-equine-encephalomyelitis-eee.

The NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services “Veterinary Division” is online at

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