An outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been reported in Levy County where a farm lost all of its chickens and emus last week.
In addition, a horse in Marion County has also tested positive for EEE, a mosquito-borne illness that often requires euthanasia of farm animals.
The Florida Department of Health responded to a potential outbreak last Tuesday at the Bronson Hot Chicks Farm. There, they found 10 birds dead and had to euthanize 18 more, according to Levy County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Tummond. The farm is now permanently closed.
The farm had collected more than 2,000 waste tires to create an animal playground. But because standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, Tummond said the farm inadvertently created a host site for EEE to breed.
“They were back-filled with sand, so the tires then have standing water, which is a prime breeding ground for the mosquitoes. They were looking for ways to assist the family to either remove the tires from the property or have them properly disposed,” Tummond said.
Encephalitis is fatal about 90 percent of the time in horses and can also affect humans. As a precaution, Levy County Sheriff’s officials are asking citizens to be responsible for their health, property and farm animals by getting them vaccinated.
The county health department, in a news release, advised the public to drain standing water and to cover skin with clothing and mosquito repellent. The Mosquito Control department is actively spraying and attacking the issue, officials said. There is no human vaccination for EEE.