Animal in Augusta tests positive for rare but deadly virus, transmittable to humans

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Oct. 26, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- An animal in south Augusta has tested positive for a rare but deadly virus.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, is a lot like West Nile, and it can be transmitted by mosquitoes to humans.

Randy Wishard, county manger for Richmond County Environmental Health, said, "Mosquitoes are still out there, so we need to make sure we take precautions."

Richmond County has found a case of EEE in the Mike Padgett-McBean area.

"It gives you muscle aches, fever, quick onset of fever, but the worst case is it causes swelling of the brain," he said.

And although the virus is rare, Tom Stinner with Southern Equine says it's very serious.

"We have not seen a case here in a couple of years," he said.

The virus was first discovered in horses, but it can also infect birds and other animals.

"There's an Eastern and a Western form and the Eastern form is up to 90 percent fatal," Stinner said.

"There's not really a cure for it, they just treat the symptoms," Wishard said.

Most people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus won't become sick. Only one out of about 20 people show symptoms, such as sudden fever, muscle pain, headache and, in the worst cases, seizures or comas from brain swelling.

"It progresses quickly," Stinner said.

For animals like horses, the best way to prevent the disease is through vaccination. Stinner says the vaccination is given twice a year.

"For people, there's not a vaccination, just like for West Nile," Wishard said, "So you just have to take precautions."

Experts suggest using bug spray with DEET, avoiding the outdoors at dusk and getting rid of any standing water.

"Cold temperatures are doing good at killing mosquitoes off, but when it heats up to 80 degrees in the afternoon, you have mosquitoes hatching off continuous everyday," Wishard said.

Experts say the virus is underreported in humans because a doctor has to test specifically for the virus to see if you have it.

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