Aiken County acquired its first comfirmed case of Eastern equine encephalitis, when one of four horses tested positive for the vector borne disease between Aug. 26 and Aug. 30.

The other confirmed positives were in Bamberg County, Berkeley County and Darlington County. The four cases bring the total number of horses to test positive for the virus in the state this year to 39.

However, Eastern equine encephalitis isn't the only vector borne disease with which horse owners and locals should be concerned. One horse has tested positive for West Nile Virus.

Vaccinations and booster shots are critical to maintaining the best protection for horses.

The incubation period for the disease is from four to 10 days, according to the Center for Disease Control and prevention. Mosquito prevention plays a critical role in preventing the disease. An infected mosquito can transmit the virus by biting a horse or human.

Horses and humans are at risk in areas where the virus is currently circulating.

If horse owners suspect their horses may be infected with Eastern equine encephalitis, they should contact their veterinarians, and make an appointment for evaluation and treatment.

There are a number of clinical signs of which horse owners should be aware of if the they suspect their horse may be infected with he virus. Symptoms can include a change in the way a horse presents itself, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, severe fever, acting out of the ordinary, incoordination, inability to swallow and drooling.

People can take measures to protect themselves from being bitten by an infected mosquito. The use of insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, eliminating and mitigating mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water, and having secure screens on windows and doors can help prevent infection.

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won include the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry.