It sure seems like there is always something new popping up these days. Something that was almost unheard of just 10 years ago and yet today it has to be taken very seriously! Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a perfect example of this.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause brain swelling. Infants or people over the age of 50 are the most vulnerable to this disease, which leads to fatalities roughly 30% of the time. Unfortunately, as of the date of this writing, no human vaccine is available.
This is disturbing to me on a personal level as there were two confirmed cases of animals infected with EEE in my county alone last summer.
Seeing that my birds are not a member of the ‘Equine’ family (horses), I wondered if they were immune against this infection. Sadly, this is not true.
An advisory was issued by health officials in the state of Florida, indicating that, several chickens had ‘tested positive’ for EEE. They also went on to state, “the risk of transmission to humans has increased.”
And if that isn’t distressing enough, “the majority of wild birds infected with the virus will exhibit no clinical signs,” – as per Cornell University.
So to recap, your chickens are more than capable of being infected with EEE and there is a very real possibility that you won’t even know it.
What Are The Symptoms Of “Chicken” EEE?
While the symptoms of EEE in humans may include, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, chickens are not likely to exhibit any of these signs.
Birds are essentially, ‘reservoir hosts’, meaning the virus survives in them, and then jumps to another host, via a mosquito.
The only way to diagnose with any certainty whether or not a bird is carrying the EEE virus, is by means of a laboratory test; taking samples from ‘brain, spleen, liver and serum,’ for testing.
Can My Chicken Give Me EEE?
While it can be quite frightening to think that your feathered friends are supporting something deadly, the reality is that any bird can be a ‘reservoir host’ and not just the ones giving you delicious eggs.
In short, it is not the chicken that gives a person EEE, but rather a mosquito. You could have hundreds of birds in your backyard – chickens, crows, robins, ect. – and if there are no mosquitoes ‘bridge the disease’ to you, then your risk of exposure to this virus is very small.
My intent with this article is not to ‘sell you with a scare’, but to give you the facts as we know them today, in a straight-forward fashion. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is, beyond any doubt, something that you should be aware of, and take precautions against, as it does cause fatalities in humans.
But please don’t feel the need to rid your life of all birds, in your attempts to eliminate possible bridges for this disease.
Remember, some birds eat mosquitoes, thereby reducing your chance of being infected by mosquito bite.
The CDC has a wealth of information on this subject. I highly recommend that you read it.
If you have any concerns regarding Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), please consult proper medical support. Not only will they give you the most up to date information, regarding this virus, but should EEE be found, they need to know about it! This helps everyone in the long run.