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COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s state veterinarian has confirmed the first 2015 case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the state in 2015. An unvaccinated horse died from the disease in Barnwell County.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses that can also affect people. Vaccination can prevent the disease in horses.

“Horse owners should check with their veterinarian to be sure their horses’ vaccinations are up to date against both EEE and West Nile Virus,” said Boyd Parr, state veterinarian and director of Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health. “Vaccination is especially important in our coastal counties.”

Nine of 10 horses infected with EEE virus die from the disease. In 2013 South Carolina led the nation with 49 EEE cases. The EEE virus is maintained in nature through a cycle involving the freshwater swamp mosquito, Culiseta melanura, commonly known as the blacktailed mosquito.

“Two to three days after becoming infected with EEE virus, a mosquito becomes capable of transmitting the virus,” said Adam Eichelberger, veterinarian overseeing LPH animal health programs. “Infected mosquitoes that feed on both birds and mammals can transmit the disease to horses and humans.”

Symptoms usually develop in horses from two to five days after exposure. The symptoms include stumbling, circling, head pressing, depression or apprehension, weakness of legs, partial paralysis, the inability to stand, muscle twitching or death.

Any livestock, including horses, that display neurologic symptoms — stumbling, circling, head pressing, depression or apprehension — must be reported to the state veterinarian at 803-788-2260 within 48 hours, according to state law.

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