An approximately 12-year-old mare in Ocean County (not the one pictured) contracted the first reported case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses, in New Jersey in 2019.

The horse had been vaccinated against EEE in April of this year before it was euthanized on Tuesday.

“Horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher said. “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 and is transmitted by a mosquito bite.

The virus spreads 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, according to Fisher.

In 2018, New Jersey had five cases of EEE and one case 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.

For more information about EEE in horses, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture website.

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 at jerseyvetlab@ag.state.nj.us .

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