NEWTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Another horse in northeastern Pennsylvania has died of Eastern equine encephalitis virus, and state health officials are warning people to protect themselves and their animals.
Health officials in Pennsylvania just confirmed a case of EEE killing a horse in Luzerne County. This is the third county in our area now where the deadly disease has been found.
EEE is contracted when a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human or animal. The viral disease has claimed the lives of two horses in Carbon County, one horse in Luzerne County, and pheasants in Monroe County.
While there is little that can be done about mosquitoes transmitting the disease, one horse organization in our area vaccinates its horses to prevent these types of illnesses.
Marley's Mission near Clarks Summit is doing everything possible to protect its horses from the deadly disease. The organization offers horse-based therapy to children who have experienced trauma and their families free of charge.
Olivia Brock, barn manager at Marley's Mission, says her group is working hard to protect the 17 horses there.
"It's kind of an uncontrollable thing because mosquitoes are everywhere, and there's not a lot you can do as far as prevention in the moment, but we have a really good vet and they vaccinate for all of that preventatively," Brock said. "Even before we knew this was going to be an outbreak, we vaccinate our horses for everything possible."
Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water, so Marley's Mission is getting around that by using automatic water fountains. The water goes away once the horse is done drinking and eliminates the chances for mosquitoes in the barns.
That's not the only precautions taken at Marley's Mission.
"We have fans in the barn which cuts down on the bugs flying around. We spray them every day, and when they come in, we check them for symptoms," Brock added.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it may take between four and 10 days from the bite to see symptoms such as chills, fever, vomiting, and brain swelling.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends protecting yourself from EEE by covering exposed skin, wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing, and using insect repellent containing 20% or more DEET.
The horses at Marley's Mission appear healthy, and those who work with these animals say others who own horses need to be aware of what's going on.
"As much as you can, just monitor them I would say, and spray them with fly spray. That would get mosquitoes, and check with your vet just to make sure," Brock suggested.
There is no vaccine for humans to prevent EEE, but the Department of Agriculture recommends you vaccinate your horses as they do at Marley's Mission. If you spot any symptoms of EEE in humans or animals, you should contact a doctor or vet immediately.