FAIRFIELD — Eastern equine encephalitis, a deadly disease that can be transmitted to humans through mosquito bites, has killed a horse in Fairfield.
The presence of the disease was confirmed Sept. 19, according to Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pinette would say only that the horse died in Somerset County, but Fairfield town officials confirmed the horse died there.
Last year, no animal deaths from the disease were documented in Maine, but this year three horses and an emu have died, Pinette said, mostly in the southern part of the state.
There are horse vaccines against the disease but no human ones, Pinette said. She warned people not to try to vaccinate themselves with horse medication, which she said causes other health problems.
The disease is transmitted only from the bite of an infected mosquito, not from horses to people.
Pinette said 25 groups of mosquito populations have tested positive for the disease this year in Maine.
She said people should be aware of mosquitoes, particularly at dawn and dusk, when they are most active, but shouldn’t be ruled by fear.
“Continue to live your life, but just use caution and be prepared,” Pinette said.
The threat in the Northeast is reduced when cold weather comes, killing the mosquitoes, Pinette said.
No frosts are predicted for the area in the National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast.
In severe cases of infection, people experience swelling of the brain, which can lead to disorientation, seizures, comas and death. About a third of those who are infected die, while others suffer brain damage.
Not everyone who is infected shows symptoms, Pinette said, but some experience persistent flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, nausea, muscle aches and bone aches.
“If that persists for more than one to two weeks, you need to enter into a discussion with your doctor,” Pinette said.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at: