CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Chippewa County Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that a horse in the county has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, which is caused by the EEE virus.
This is the first confirmed case of EEE in a horse in Chippewa County this year and the eighth case in horses in the state this year. While no EEE cases in humans have been reported in Wisconsin thus far in 2021, there were two human cases in 2020, the department said in a news release.
EEE virus is spread to humans, horses and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire EEE virus by feeding on infected birds. The virus is not spread person to person or directly between animals or between animals and humans. Documentation of an EEE positive horse, however, confirms that there are mosquitoes in the area infected with the EEE virus that could spread the virus to people and other animals.
Many people infected with EEE virus do not get sick, but those who do may develop fever, headache, chills and vomiting, the department indicated. The illness may become severe resulting in encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), disorientation, seizures, coma or death. There is no specific vaccine or treatment for EEE illness available for people.
Signs of EEE infection in horses include depression, loss of appetite, drooping eyelids and lower lip, blindness, paralysis and death. Horse owners can vaccinate their horses against EEE virus to protect them from becoming ill.
With the EEE virus known to be circulating in Chippewa County and mosquitoes remaining active until the first hard frost (temperatures below 28 degrees for at least four consecutive hours), the agency urged residents and visitors to be vigilant in preventing mosquito bites by following these tips:
• Apply an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to exposed skin and clothing.
• Prior to heading outdoors, treat clothing with permethrin; do not apply permethrin directly to skin.
• Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning hours, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
The department also encouraged residents to mosquito-proof their homes by taking steps such as ensuring screens are intact, preventing mosquitoes from breeding by removing stagnant water from items around your property, turning over wheelbarrows, buckets, kayaks and other items when not in use, changing the water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every three days, and trimming or mowing tall grass and weeds.