Eastern Equine Encephalitis (Triple E) found in Okeechobee County Contact:

Okeechobee Health Department

Brian Sell

(863) 462-5865

The Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee is monitoring and investigating the deaths of two emus and one that is sick from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEEV) also commonly known as Triple E.  The Health department is working in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service on the surveillance and control measures related to this investigation.

EEEV is a rare disease that is maintained by avian hosts and spread to humans, horses and other exotic animals by infected mosquitoes. It is among the most serious of a group of mosquito-borne virus diseases that can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications and even death. Similar diseases are Western Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, and LaCrosse Encephalitis.

EEEV has a complex life cycle involving birds and a specific type of mosquito, Culiseta melanura, that lives in marshes and swamps. These mosquitoes feed only on birds; they do not feed on humans and other mammals. In rare cases, however, the virus can escape from its marsh habitat in other mosquitoes that feed on both birds and mammals (including horses and humans). These mosquitoes can transmit the virus to animals and people. After infection, the virus invades the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain. In addition to horses, other animals such as ratites (emus and ostriches) and camelids (alpacas and llamas) can also be impacted by Eastern Equine Encephalitis infection. Emus in particular are highly vulnerable to infection and exposure to body fluids (particularly feces, saliva, and blood) from infected birds can lead to additional birds and people to become sick.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare disease. Fewer than five cases are reported in most years. Although small outbreaks of human disease have occurred in the United States, epidemics in horses can be common during the summer and fall.

Anyone can get EEEV, but some people are at increased risk due to bites of infected mosquitoes:

  • People living in or visiting areas where the disease is common.
  • People who work outside or participate in outdoor recreational activities in areas where the disease is common.
  • Eastern Equine Encephalitis occurs mainly in young children and in persons older than age 55.
  • People involved with the care of emus with Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus infection can also be exposed by direct contact with infected birds or their bodily fluids or feces.

Infection can cause a range of illnesses. Most people have no symptoms; others get only a mild flu-like illness with fever, headache and sore throat. For people with infection of the central nervous system, a sudden fever and severe headache can be followed quickly by seizures and coma. About half of these patients die from the disease. Of those who survive, many suffer permanent brain damage and require lifetime institutional care.

If you have been to or work these exotic and are showing signs and symptoms, please see your primary care physician or go to the local hospital right away.

To prevent mosquitoes from living and multiplying around your home or business:

DRAIN standing water:

  • Drain water from garbage cans, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
  • Discarded old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pet’s water bowls at least once or twice a week.
  • Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.

COVER your skin with:

  • CLOTHING – If you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, cover up. Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves.
  • REPELLENT – Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with 10-30 percent DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old.

COVER doors and windows with screens:

  • Keep mosquitoes out of your house. Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios.

For additional information visit

http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/eastern-equine- encephalitis.html.

For information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) visit http://www.cdc.gov/EasternEquineEncephalitis/.