Deadly mosquito-borne virus spreads to Ohio; 3 horses dead, no human cases

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A potentially deadly virus being spread by mosquitoes has made its way to Ohio.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or "Triple-E", has killed three people in Michigan. Health officials in Ohio are closely monitoring the spread of the virus.

Stephanie Green boards 36 horses at her Shoo Fly Stables in Fairfield County.

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She says her horses are like her children, which is why she takes no chances with their health.

"Horses are very susceptible to a lot of different diseases, so we vaccinate every year. There's a seven-way shot that we give every year."

And this year, that precaution could be even more important.

"We've had three horses infected that have died from Triple-E." said Dr. Tony Forshey, state veterinarian with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. "Triple-E is Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It's a virus that circulates in the bloodstream and then gets into the brain and causes massive swelling. It's pretty much always fatal in those horses."

It is spread by mosquitoes to horses and humans.

Twenty human cases have been reported in five states, including three deaths in Michigan. Forshey says there are three equine cases in Ohio, but no human cases.

"We've alerted public health officials to be aware of that and tell their clients to protect themselves against mosquito bites," he said.

"Your chances of contracting Triple-E are significantly lower than West Nile Virus," said Sarah Fink with Franklin County Public Health.

She says Triple-E is more dangerous than West Nile, but far more rare, especially in central Ohio.

"We don't have quite the habitat where Triple-E tends to start amplifying in the bird population. You see that more in fresh water swamps, which you find in Michigan, Massachusetts, North Carolina, those areas where we are having the Triple-E outbreaks."

The best way to protect yourself from Triple-E and West Nile, is to prevent mosquito bites.

Avoid being outside during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Cover yourself with long sleeves and pants, and use insect repellent containing Deet.

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