Mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis has infected one human and seven horses this summer in North Carolina, state health and agricultural officials report.

North Carolina map/ National Atlas of the United States
North Carolina map/ National Atlas of the United States

Also known as EEE or ‘Triple E,’ the virus can cause inflammation of the brain. While there is a vaccine for horses, there is none for humans. State Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health officials noted there was a single case affecting a human reported in North Carolina. State Agriculture Department officials said seven cases affecting horses were reported in Brunswick, Hoke, Onslow, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson and Wake counties. North Carolina averages one case in humans and 10 in horses every year.

“Triple E is not communicable between horses and people,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Carl Williams, DVM. “It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. While Triple E is very rare in humans, when it does occur it is a serious illness, so it is very important to take protective measures against mosquito bites.”

There is no human vaccine for EEE. Symptoms typically appear four to 10 days after someone is bitten by an infected mosquito and may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, and sore throat. Severe cases can involve encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Those at highest risk of contracting EEE live in or visit woodland habitats, and people who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities.

If you or someone you know is experiencing flu-like symptoms, contact your local medical provider.

“Fortunately, there are preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of infection in both people and horses,” said Dr. Mike Neault, Director of Livestock Operations, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Reducing breeding grounds for mosquitoes on your property is one of the most important preventative measures for humans and animals. Vaccines are available for horses and both the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the NCDA&CS recommend equine owners work with their veterinarian to ensure their animals are kept current on their vaccinations against Triple E.”

Take steps to reduce habitat for pests including mosquitoes and reduce exposure to them.

Tip and Toss:

  1. Reduce mosquito breeding opportunities by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least weekly.
  2. Be sure to tightly secure screens on all openings on rain barrels used for water conservation.
  3. Clean up any trash or leaves that may be around your home or in rain gutters.

Reduce exposure and use preventive measures:

  1. Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) on exposed skin and wear clothing treated with permethrin, a synthetic insecticide used against disease-carrying insects.
  2. Mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside, and use air conditioning if you have it.