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Health Officials Warn Of EEE Virus In Highgate

The Vermont Department of Health says a horse in Highgate has been euthanized as a result of becoming ill from Eastern equine encephalitis.

State epidemiologist Erica Berl said this is evidence that there’s a cause for concern of potential risk to humans.

"Finding EEE in a horse means that people should be aware that the virus is present. And it’s present enough to cause illness in a mammal," Berl said.

The health department says that residents of Highgate are now considered to be at high risk for EEE. People in Swanton are at increased risk.

Berl said it’s important for people to take precautions against mosquito bites. "We don’t want people to be frightened and to never go outside, we just want people to be smart about it, and if they’re in an area with a lot of mosquitoes or even if they’re in an area where they’re getting bitten occasionally, they want to take steps to prevent those bites."

The disease is transmitted to humans and some animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. Last year, two people who lived in the southern Addison County/northern Rutland County died from EEE.

The health department says active mosquito surveillance is limited to those areas, so it’s possible the virus is also present in other parts of the state.

Health Commissioner Harry Chen says it's important to keep taking precautions against mosquitoes until the first hard frost, which may not take place for another month in some parts of the state.