Two horses in Beaufort County were the first to test positive this year for Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, State Veterinarian Dr. David Marshall announced Thursday. The unvaccinated horses were treated by a veterinarian and euthanized within the past two weeks after presenting symptoms of EEE.
The disease is spread through mosquitos.
A third horse was confirmed positive for EEE in Columbus County and was put down.
State officials have seen a decline in equine EEE cases the last few years, but they caution equine owners to continue the vaccination protocol against these potentially fatal diseases because the diseases are historically cyclical in nature, with years of few reported cases followed by years with widespread disease.
There is also speculation that several years of drought kept mosquitoes - and mosquito-borne diseases - at bay, so this year's wetter weather could bring more mosquitoes.
Symptoms of EEE, also known as "equine sleeping sickness," include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death.