A 5-year-old Cumberland County mare is the first reported case in 2017 of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. The horse had not been vaccinated against EEE and died on August 28, 2017.
“Horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. 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 disease is transmitted by 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 considered to be “dead-end” hosts for the virus.
In 2016, New Jersey had four cases of EEE and no cases of West Nile Virus (WNV).
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.