Sussex County Delaware

Equine Encephalitis
Found in Sussex


Cause for Alarm

Saying it was no cause for alarm, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said it found two chickens with the mosquito-borne disease equine encephalitis during recent tests near Gumboro and Milford on Monday, Oct. 1. 2001.

DNREC said the chickens tested on Sept. 10-11 and Sept. 24-25 at a surveillance station near the Great Cypress Swamp and another station near Beaverdam Branch tested positive for the EEE virus.

In August, a horse tested positive for EEE near Gumboro and had to be euthanized.

State health officials said there was no cause for alarm but advised the general public to take common sense precautions such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors, applying insect repellant sparingly to exposed skin, and avoiding outdoor activity in mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk.

EEE is an encephalitis virus that routinely occurs in songbirds and is not usually fatal to birds. It is circulated by a forestland mosquito species that feeds almost exclusively on songbirds. Saltmarsh and some freshwater mosquitos biting infected birds can then transmit the disease to humans or horses, although human cases are rare.

Horse owners are encouraged to vaccinate their animals because the disease is almost always fatal in horses. There is no vaccination for humans.

Fatality rates in those rare instances when humans contract the disease are 70 percent in children and the elderly and 30 percent in healthy adults.

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