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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

Allen County horse battles rare disease

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio - A horse in Allen County and another in south-central Ohio's Pickaway County have eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral disease, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said yesterday.

The disease has not occurred in Ohio since 2005, when a case was reported in Trumbull County, officials said.

The agriculture department's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Reynoldsburg confirmed the disease. One was from Harrod in Allen County. The other was from Orient in Pickaway County.

The virus is spread through infected mosquitoes. It can be fatal to horses if they're not properly vaccinated, officials said.

"Horses are highly susceptible to [eastern equine encephalitis], and vaccination can be an effective tool in combating this deadly virus," said Dr. Tony Forshey, state veterinarian.

"Horse owners should take all necessary precautions, including the implementation of good mosquito control."

The virus has been found in several states around Ohio. It is most common in freshwater hardwood swamps of Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and in the Great Lakes region.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports that human cases occur relatively infrequently. That's because the primary transmission cycle takes place in and around swampy areas where few humans live.

Still, officials said people should avoid mosquito bites by using repellents, wearing protective clothing, avoiding outdoor activities when mosquitoes are active, and removing standing water that can provide mosquito breeding sites. Information is available at the CDC Web site, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/arbor/eeefact.htm.

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