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Local News

More Mosquitoes, More Disease: Protect Horses & Other Animals

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Photo via Flickr// Feliciano Guimarães
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Escambia County officials are urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against Eastern Equine Encephalitis in light of increased local sightings of the mosquito species that carry and transmit the disease.

EEE is nothing new. It’s been present in Escambia County since it was first detected in 1937, according to county Health Director Dr. John Lanza. 

“This is the time of year, of course, when we see a lot of mosquitoes out there,” says Lanza. “This is secondary to our big rain event we had back at the end of April, and continuing every other day or so.”

All mosquitoes must have water to complete their life cycle. The quality of that water can range from tap water to sewage effluent. And anything that holds water can be home. Bob Betts, Director of Escambia County’s Mosquito Control Division, says residents need to check their homes for areas where water can collect and stand.

“And I can take care of that problem very simply,” Betts said. “I can search out where the problem is and then dump it. I don’t have to put chemicals out in the air, I don’t have to put chemicals in water; I don’t have to put (mosquito) fish in the water. I just go out and dump those containers.”

More water means more mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes can lead to higher levels of EEE. Symptoms in horses include apprehension, depression, elevated temperature, head shaking, muscle twitching, aimless wandering and listlessness, and loss of coordination.

Betts says given the wide open fields in which some horses live, in many cases they’re outside all night, there’s little his agency can do to control mosquitoes in those areas. Humans can protect themselves, but horses depend on their owners to prevent their exposure and avoid becoming victims of mosquito-borne disease.

“The best thing we can do is to impress upon horse owners to get the vaccines,” said Betts. “I talked to large-animal veterinarians in the county, and they recommend that horses be vaccinated twice a year. Once a horse is vaccinated, that horse is completely safe.”

Humans with EEE display symptoms very similar to those of West Nile Virus: fever, headache, delirium, body aches and pains, seizures, coma, and in extreme cases, death. Dr. John Lanza says self-protection from the flying pests comes down to the basics.

“Things that we can do as humans is avoid being out at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active,” said Lanza. “If we have to be out there, appropriate dress to cover exposed skin, and using mosquito repellents (containing DEET).”

Lanza says those measures are effective in guarding against exposure to the headline mosquito-borne diseases reported in the area, not only EEE and West Nile, but the more recent Dengue Fever and the Chikungunya virus. Those diseases are reported to be in Florida, but have yet to be seen in the Panhandle.