Polk County Health Department warns of Triple-E after 2 horses test positive

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County is warning people of a rise in mosquito-borne disease activity.

Health officials say two horses have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, also known as Triple E, in Polk County.

The health department is encouraging people to take precautions to avoid mosquito exposure headed into the summer.

File: Mosquitoes on a hand.

File: Mosquitoes on a hand. 

Officials say the disease is very rare in humans.

"It's typically found in North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean," Lydia George, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health in Polk County, said. "And the United States is mostly along the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast and some inland Midwestern areas."

George says the virus typically spreads through animals. She says cases are more commonly reported in the summer and fall.

READ: New invasive mosquito species spreading in Florida

"So the way it kind of spreads is birds are the source of infection for mosquitoes, which then transmit the infection to horses," she said. "Some other mammals like alpacas, llamas, emus, ostriches."

File: Horses

File: Horses

Health officials say the risk of transmission is higher with reported cases.

In the rare case a person does become infected with the virus, George says there’s a wide range of symptoms. She says severe cases are extremely rare.

READ: Simple ways to evict mosquitoes from your property

"There's a range in most cases, there are no symptoms or it's like mild flu-like symptoms, like a headache and a sore throat," George said. "In more severe cases, Eastern Equine Encephalitis affects the central nervous system."

File: Mosquito

File: Mosquito

Despite the extremely dry conditions recently, anytime you’re outdoors or around animals, health officials encourage people to be extra mindful of mosquitos.

"Drain any standing water around your home, drain water from garbage cans, buckets, pool covers, you know, empty and clean bird baths and pet water bowls," George said.

The health department also encourages people to wear long clothes when they’re outdoors if possible, use repellant, and use mosquito nets on windows, doors and porches, especially around young children.