West Nile Virus reported in New Jersey

07:30 PM 24 Aug 2009 NZST
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New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today announced cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) for 2009 have occurred in horses in Gloucester and Salem counties.

"Through stepped up mosquito control and surveillance, the state has been able to decrease the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses for both the horse and human population in New Jersey," said Secretary Fisher. "However, horse owners are urged to continue to vaccinate their animals against WNV and EEE yearly to protect them from these serious diseases."

A 3-year-old mare from Cloucester County was humanely euthanized on August 18 after testing positive for both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Signs of illness began earlier that day. The animal's vaccination history was uncertain.

Illness in a 20-year-old gelding in Salem County was attributed to infection with WNV. The horse began exhibiting signs of illness on August 18 and veterinary treatment was started the same day. The horse is recovering. The horse was not vaccinated against the virus.

West Nile virus is a viral disease that affects horses' neurological systems. Horses contract the virus when infected mosquitoes bite them. The disease cannot be spread from horse to horse or from an infected horse to humans or domestic pets.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare but serious mosquito-borne disease that causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile virus infection.

Though fewer cases of the diseases have been seen recently, owners still need to be diligent in protecting their animals. There were no cases of either disease in horses in New Jersey last year. In 2007, there were two cases of West Nile virus and one presumptive positive case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses. That compared with 2003, when there were 150 cases of WNV and eight cases of EEE.

For more information about EEE and West Nile Virus in horses, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site.

Effective equine vaccines for West Nile virus and EEE have been available for several years. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians now if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and West Nile virus.

West Nile virus and EEE, like other viral diseases affecting horses' neurological systems, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-292-3965 within 48 hours.

Lynne Richmond

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