Deadly Virus Confirmed in Tennessee Horse Death

Horse owners are being advised to step up monitoring of their animals due to a confirmed case eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a virus that can be fatal for horses and humans. The Tennessee departments of Agriculture and Health (TDA and TDH) are advising citizens to take precautions to protect themselves and their livestock.

The confirmed case of EEE was found in Gibson County, where a horse showed signs of illness. Testing confirmed the disease, and the horse was euthanized. The disease, which is transmitted by mosquitos, has a 95-percent mortality rate in horses

An infected horse cannot directly transmit the virus to other horses or humans through contact. However, mosquito-borne diseases do pose a public health risk. This recent equine case serves as a reminder that mosquito season is not over yet. Experts say mosquitoes can remain active in Tennessee until temperatures fall below freezing. People can best protect themselves by wearing insect repellent, long sleeves and long pants, draining standing water around homes and businesses, and avoiding peak times when mosquitoes bite at dusk and dawn.

Although there is no vaccine for humans, the EEE vaccine for equines is particularly effective to prevent infection in horses. Every horse owner should speak with their veterinarian to develop an appropriate vaccination plan.

Livestock owners should always monitor their animals and contact a veterinarian if an animal appears sick. Equine symptoms of EEE may include lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, and/or colic. To minimize risk of insect bites around your farm, use insect repellent for livestock and eliminate sources of standing water where insects congregate and breed.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers the following tips to protect people from mosquito bites:

Use repellants that contain DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, following all label recommendations for use.

Wear closed shoes with socks, along with long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and pants.

Avoid perfumes, colognes, and products with fragrances that might attract biting insects.

The Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture work closely together to help protect the health of animals and people as part of the Tennessee One Health Committee. One Health seeks to improve communication and encourage collaboration among veterinarians, physicians, environmental scientists, public health professionals, and others to find solutions to shared challenges such as emerging infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, and emergency preparedness.