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Encephalitis continues to spread; 5 horses killed

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Marion County continues to experience new cases of eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, in June as additional animals became sick with the virus.

The community remains under a mosquito-borne illness advisory due to EEE activity in the county.

The risk of disease spread from mosquitoes to humans through mosquito bites is currently increased due to the number of local EEE cases.

Five horses and two emus have died of the virus in the county this year. Deaths in horses and emus are a sign of increased spread of the virus in a community.

EEE is a typically fatal virus in the equine population and can fatal in humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people most at risk for infection with EEE include those who work outside or spend time doing outdoor recreational activities because of added exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes.

People involved with the care of emus with EEE virus infection can also be exposed by direct contact with infected birds or their bodily fluids or feces.

The Florida Department of Health recommends that people take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes due to the heightened risk of disease transmission.

The department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, chikungunya and dengue.