The Arkansas Department of Health has recently reported several cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in horses, which indicates the risk is present in local mosquitoes.

While no human cases have been reported, the disease can be transmitted to humans and health officials are urging caution.  EEE kills between 70 and 90 percent of infected horses. Horse owners and those with other large livestock have been encouraged to vaccinate their animals against EEE. Cleaning out water troughs and other sources of standing water to prevent mosquito breeding sites is also encouraged.

While it is rare in people, mosquitoes can spread the EEE infection after they feed on infected animals and bite a human. Infection with the virus in a person can result in swelling of the brain.

Being bitten by an infected mosquito does not guarantee infection, and most humans who are bitten do not develop symptoms. People who become infected and are symptomatic typically experience headaches, chills, fever, malaise, joint and muscle pain. 

If unchecked, the illness can result in significant neurological symptoms such as drowsiness, seizures, coma and possibly death.

Because of the threat to health, the Arkansas Department of Health has released a bulletin stressing that anyone who plans to be outdoors take precautions against ticks, mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry. 

“Whether in their own backyard or on a trip, Arkansans should protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases,” the bulletin says. “Some of these diseases can be fatal; some of them can also be difficult to diagnose and treat.” 

Tips for preventing mosquito-borne viruses are commonsense, and include:

-Using an EPA-approved insect repellant as directed.

-Using permethrin on your clothing as directed.

-Reducing mosquitoes around your home. Get rid of any standing water on your property. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a bottle cap full of water.

-Wearing protective clothing from dusk to dawn when outdoors.

Those who experience any symptoms and think they may have EEE, should talk to their healthcare provider about testing. 

Those who are interested can learn more about insect-related diseases at healthy.arkansas.gov.

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