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Potentially Deadly Disease To Humans Kills Horse On Eastern Shore

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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WORCESTER COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A disease with no known cure kills a horse on the Eastern Shore, and it can kill humans, as well.

It’s carried by mosquitoes, and it may be even more dangerous than the West Nile virus.

Alex DeMetrick explains the state health department is warning Marylanders to be on alert.

It’s called Eastern equine encephalitis, or Triple E for short. It’s similar to West Nile, but it’s far deadlier.

It’s called Eastern equine encephalitis because it most often shows up in horses. It rarely does in people, but a horse that  died from Triple E in Worcester County has the state health department concerned.

“Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain, and it can cause any number of symptoms,” said Kimberly Mitchell, Maryland Department of Health.

Symptoms including fever, headaches, mental confusion, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches. It can get a lot worse.

“Approximately one-third of infected individuals can become severely ill and can lead to seizures, coma and sometimes death. That’s the concern with Triple E,” Mitchell said.

And unlike horses, which have a vaccine to ward off Triple E, there is no vaccine or medical cure for people. Like West Nile, mosquitoes carry the disease.

In Maryland, it most often surfaces near the marshes on the Eastern Shore. But anywhere there is water, there are going to be mosquitoes and the possibility of illness.

“The main way to avoid getting sick with it is really trying to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes,” said Mitchell.

That means getting rid of standing or stagnant water around homes, using repellant and avoiding outside activities at dusk and dawn.

Again, human cases are thankfully rare, and the health department is not trying to be alarmist. It’s simply asking Marylanders to take common sense steps to avoid being bitten.

Earlier Friday evening, the Delaware Health Department issued its own alert when a chicken tested positive for Triple E.

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