Two mosquito-borne diseases have been detected in horses and in emu flocks in Maine over the past few weeks, and state officials are warning residents to take precautions against mosquito bites that could transmit the viruses to humans.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry reported positive test results on Tuesday for eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, in several emu flocks and multiple horses in Piscataquis, Penobscot, Somerset and Waldo counties. Also, a horse tested positive for West Nile Virus in York County. Horses and emus, which are similar to ostriches, are susceptible to the virus, which is transmitted by mosquito bites.

In addition, the state reported that mosquitoes collected in Kennebec and Penobscot counties have tested positive for EEE. Mosquitoes collected in York County tested positive for the disease last month.

“Although a frost capable of killing mosquitoes may occur in many areas of Maine, the current risk persists in multiple state regions. With ongoing reports of suspected cases over several weeks, precautions must be taken to safeguard humans and at-risk animals,” the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said in a statement Tuesday.

While there have not been any human cases of the diseases, 2023 is the first year that the Maine CDC has reported cases of EEE, West Nile virus and Jamestown Canyon virus in mosquito samples in a single season. The state routinely collects and tests mosquitoes to monitor for the presence of diseases.

The CDC advises Maine residents to protect themselves and animals against mosquito-borne diseases by eliminating standing water on property where mosquitos can breed, such as in wheelbarrows. Horses should be vaccinated against EEE and West Nile virus. And people should protect against bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, especially when walking in the woods.

People who contract a mosquito-borne disease, if they have symptoms, often experience fever and flu-like illnesses.

Severe symptoms of encephalitis include stiff neck, confusion, agitation or hallucinations, seizures, and loss of sensation or being unable to move certain areas of the face or body. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, irritability, loss of appetite, sleepiness and lethargy. The diseases can be fatal in extremely rare cases.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.