Onslow County pony may have rare disease capable of infecting humans


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — An Onslow County pony has been presumptively diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare disease that can also infect humans.

The Onslow County Health Department said the diagnosis is based on the pony’s clinical symptoms and a preliminary test that shows the pony had recently been exposed to the EEE virus.

No humans have been infected, but both horses and humans can get the disease through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“Although it is a rare disease, we want people to be aware of it because if a pony in Onslow County has been infected, that means the disease is present in some local mosquitos,” said Pamela Brown, Onslow County Health Department public information officer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with a severe form of the disease will have “sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma.”

There is no vaccine for humans, but there is one for horses, so the Health Department said owners should have their animals immunized.

Angela Lee, health director for the Onslow County Health Department, said “The message we want Onslow County residents to understand is that although it is very rare to be infected by Eastern Equine Encephalitis, it could be in some mosquitos in our area. Therefore, the best way to prevent an EEE infection is not to be bitten by a mosquito.”The department recommends the following to avoid mosquito bites.

• Use insect repellant, especially one with “DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus,” (CDC.gov).
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible.
• Ensure screens on windows and doors have no holes.
• Empty anything around your home, or in your home, that has water in it; change the water in pet drinking bowls or birdbaths every few days and cover or drain child swimming pools when not in use.

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