State health and agricultural officials are cautioning residents to protect themselves and livestock after a horse in West Tennessee tested positive eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).

Officials say humans can’t get the virus from horses, but they can get it from mosquitoes.

Officials say the first documented case in Tennessee of a human getting EEE happened over the summer in Hamilton County.

“The best ways for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites are to wear insect repellent, wear long sleeves and long pants, drain standing water around homes and businesses, and avoid peak times when mosquitoes bite at dusk and dawn,” said Tennessee Department of Health Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn, D.V.M., PhD.

Officials encourage all horse owners to contact their veterinarians about a vaccination plan to help prevent the virus from spreading.

“EEE is a devastating illness, with up to 95 percent mortality in infected horses,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty, D.V.M. said. “While you may not be able to completely prevent mosquito bites on your horses, appropriate vaccines are vital to safeguarding their health and protecting them from EEE and other insect-borne diseases.”

Symptoms of EEE found in horses may include lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, and/or colic.

The Tennessee Department of Health provided the following tips to protect people from mosquito bites:

  • Use repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, following all label recommendations for use.
  • Wear closed shoes with socks, along with long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and pants.
  • Avoid perfumes, colognes, and products with fragrances that might attract biting insects.

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