Eastern equine encephalitis causes four Florida deaths

A mosquito-borne horse illness has claimed four Florida lives in the last two months, according to state public health officials.

Eastern equine encephalitis caused the death of two Tampa-area residents in July, Reuters reports. Since then, one death from the disease has occurred in Tallahassee and one in the northwest Florida town of Sopchoppy.

The disease usually affects unvaccinated horses, but, every year, a small number of human deaths are recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. EEE causes inflammation in the brain and generally kills a third of its human victims. Those that survive often suffer from significant brain damage. There is no human vaccine for the disease.

The Florida Department of Health is also paying close attention to two other mosquito-borne illnesses - dengue fever and West Nile virus. EEE and West Nile virus have been seen in 43 out of the 67 Florida counties, and dengue has been confirmed in two counties, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Carina Blackmore, a state public health veterinarian, told Reuters that the number of EEE cases in livestock, horses and people appears consistent with the last few years, adding that August and September are peak months for most of the mosquito-related illnesses.

”The two things we try to relay are get rid of mosquitoes and avoid contact,” Blackmore told Reuters.