Case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Westchester

First Case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Westchester

Eastern Equine EncephalitisHorse likely infected outside of New York State

BEDFORD, NY -- August 31, 2012 -- Westchester County has learned of its first case ever of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) today, in a privately owned horse in Bedford, New York,  that had recently traveled out of state to an area where EEE is more common.

The horse developed neurological symptoms and was put down. It was subsequently tested and results confirmed today that the horse had Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease. Given the recent travel history of the horse, the horse most likely was infected with EEE outside of Westchester, according to the New York State Department of Health. The Westchester County Department of Health conducted a local environmental assessment in the area around the private stable where the horse boarded but found no signs of mosquito breeding activity.

“This is a serious disease in horses, but the risk to people is quite low,’’ said Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the Westchester County Board of Health and a veterinarian. “The viruses that cause this disease and other related diseases are responsible for only sporadic illness, and only occasionally are cases reported in horses and birds in southern New York State. This infection is unusual in animals and it is even rarer for it to cause illness in people.’’

According to state health department records kept since 1959, there has never been a human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the New York metropolitan area, which includes Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Sullivan, Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Nassau and Suffolk counties. There were just two human cases of EEE in New York from 1964 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta

“To protect against all mosquito-borne diseases, residents should continue to remove standing water on their property, use insect repellents with DEET according to the label instructions and take other appropriate precautions to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.’’ Rick Morrissey, deputy commissioner for environmental health.

As in prior years, the Health Department prepared for the summer mosquito season by applying larvicide briquettes to street catch basins that held standing water on county and local roads in an effort to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as the West Nile virus. Residents should continue to do their part by taking personal protection measures and removing standing water where mosquitoes can breed. 

For more information on the department’s larviciding and mosquito prevention activities, call the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or visit www.westchestergov.com/health.