New Jersey Confirms First Equine EEE Case of 2013

New Jersey Confirms First Equine EEE Case of 2013

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes.

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The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has confirmed that a 7-year-old horse from Cape May County was euthanized on Aug. 3, one day after showing neurologic signs consistent with Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. Tests on the gelding concluded the animal was positive for EEE.

“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.”

The Cape May horse was obtained from a horse rescue two weeks prior to the onset of illness and the animal’s vaccination history was unknown.

In 2012, New Jersey had six cases of EEE and four cases of West Nile virus (WNV) between June and October.

Effective equine vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially, and horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarians if their animals are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.

A viral disease, EEE affects the central nervous system and is transmitted to horses by infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs of EEE include moderate to high fever, depression, lack of appetite, cranial nerve deficits (facial paralysis, tongue weakness, difficulty swallowing), behavioral changes (aggression, self-mutilation, or drowsiness), gait abnormalities, or severe central nervous system signs, such as head-pressing, circling, blindness, and seizures.

The course of EEE can be swift, with death occurring two to three days after onset of clinical signs despite intensive care; fatality rates reach 75-80% among horses. Horses that survive might have long-lasting impairments and neurologic problems.

Cases of EEE and West Nile virus confirmed in New Jersey, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurologic systems, 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 609/671-6999.

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