Second New Jersey Horse positive for EEE

A 9-year-old Atlantic County mare is the state’s second reported 2017 case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. The horse, who had not been vaccinated against EEE for two years, is undergoing treatment.

“Horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. “Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus.”

EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection.  West Nile virus is a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological system.  The diseases are transmitted by mosquito bite.  The viruses cycle between birds and mosquitoes, with horses and humans being incidental hosts. EEE infections in horses are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses (like humans) are considered to be “dead-end” hosts for the virus.

The first EEE case in New Jersey in 2017 was a 5-year-old Cumberland County mare. That horse had not been vaccinated against EEE and died on August 28, 2017

Effective equine vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.

Late summer and early fall are the prime seasons for these diseases.  In 2016, 4 cases of equine EEE occurred in New Jersey between mid-August and mid-September. There were no cases of equine WNV in 2016.

EEE and West Nile virus, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurological system, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400 within 48 hours of diagnosis. The New Jersey Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory is available to assist with EEE and WNV testing and can be reached at 609-406-6999 or via email – jerseyvetlab@ag.state.nj.us.

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