An approximately 1 year old Gloucester County colt is the first reported case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious mosquito-borne illness in horses, in New Jersey for 2023.
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The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is working to obtain clarification on the horse’s vaccination status. The colt was humanely euthanized on September 17, 2023.
There had been no prior reported cases of EEE or any animal cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in New Jersey this year.
West Nile Virus is another serious mosquito-borne illness that horses can contract.
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 a horse’s neurological system. The diseases are transmitted by a mosquito bite.
The virus cycles 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 "dead end" hosts for the virus.
In general, most regions in New Jersey have a reported mosquito population near the 5-year average. The first EEE positive mosquito pool was detected in Gloucester County this year. Ongoing surveillance indicates WNV activity is high among mosquitos this year, as compared to 5-year averages.
Livestock owners are strongly encouraged to vaccinate against WNV, EEE, and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Effective equine vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not up to date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.
“We continue to encourage horse owners to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against these diseases spread by mosquitoes,” New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Atchison III said.
“Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus.” ■