LUMBERTON — A local veterinarian told the Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday of the need for mosquito control throughout the county because of an outbreak of a virus that can kill horses and people.
Dr. David Brooks, of Pembroke Veterinary Hospital, told the board that he has treated five horses in the past two weeks for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. All of them died, he said.
“Gentleman, make no mistake about it,” Brooks told the board. “Eastern Equine Encephalitis is here.”
Brooks said that three of the horses were treated in Pembroke, one in Red Springs and one in Maxton. He said he does not if any other cases of the virus have been found in the county.
According to the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, there is no evidence that horses transmit the virus to other horses or people, but humans can get it if they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Eastern Equine Encephalitis is “rare in humans.” It is considered, however, one of the “most severe” mosquito transmitted diseases, resulting in brain inflammation that in 33 percent of human cases leads to death. Human survivors often suffer significant brain damage.
In cases where a horse is infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, there is more than a 90 percent chance that they are going to die, said Brooks.
Brooks said all five horses he treated died within 48 hours of being diagnosed.
“I’ve never seen five cases of equine encephalitis in less than two weeks,” Brooks told The Robesonian. “I’ve only seen that many cases in over a month or more.”
Brooks brought up the subject of Eastern Equine Encephalitis after addressing the commissioners about the discounted rabies vaccine program that will be provided by Robeson County veterinarians from Aug. 22 to Aug. 26. The vaccines are being offered at the 32 local fire departments as part of the annual rabies clinic sponsored by the Robeson County Veterinary Medical Association.
During the clinics, dog, cat and ferret owners can have their pets vaccinated for $5. The county commissioners agreed Monday to pay the extra $3 cost of each vaccination.
In other business, the board, at the urging of Commissioner David Edge, agreed to move forward with plans to renovate the former BB&T building on North Chestnut Street in Lumberton. The latest estimates for renovating the building is about $9 million, County Manager Ricky Harris told the board.
The county has no money for the project in this year’s budget. Harris said he will bring possible financing information to the board at its first meeting in September.
Commissioners Berlester Campbell and Raymond Cummings voted against moving forward with the project without first determining what the specific renovations would be and how they would be paid for.
The BB&T property was acquired by the county in September 2011. Harris has said that the purchase price of $650,000 was just for the parking lot associated with the building. The actual three-floor, 64,000-square-foot building was donated to the county, he said.
In other business, the commissioners on Monday:
— Approved incentives for a business project known as “Project Trilogy.” Greg Cummings, the county’s economic developer and industrial recruiter, described the project as an expansion and consolidation of four companies.
According to Cummings, the project will result in an investment of $16 million, and create 50 jobs with yearly salaries averaging $39,500 plus benefits during Phase I.
— Approved Sheriff Ken Sealey’s request for $30,000 to contract out for services with a private forensic laboratory in Fayetteville. Sealey said lab can provide his department forensic test results in 30 days that have previously taken up to two years to obtain.
— Approved a request by Riverbend Services Inc. to amend a conditional-use permit that was previously issued to operate a group home on a single acre in a Residential Agricultural District in Sterlings.
— Approved a request from Falcon Transportation LLC that a combined 3.57-acre tract in St. Pauls be rezoned from Residential Agricultural to Heavy Industrial to allow for the establishment of a dispatch office.
— Approved a request from Danny and Cindy Tew that a 2.45-acre tract in St. Pauls be rezoned from Residential Agricultural to Heavy Industrial to allow for the establishment of a dispatch office.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.