New Jersey Horses Contract West Nile Virus & Eastern Equine Encephalitis

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OCEAN COUNTY – Horses in both Ocean County and Burlington County have reportedly contracted West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, both serious mosquito-borne illnesses.

In Burlington County, one 10-year old mare is the first reported case of West Nile Virus (WNV) this year. In Ocean County, we’re seeing the fourth reported case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in New Jersey for 2018. The mare is now undergoing treatment. The Ocean County horse was euthanized on September 4; the previous three EEE horses, from Monmouth and Camden counties, were also euthanized.

None of these affected horses were vaccinated against either disease in 2018.

The NJ Department of Agriculture reported that “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.”

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The disease, transmitted via mosquito bite, typically moves between birds and mosquitos. Humans and horses become incidental but “dead-end” hosts for the virus.

“We continue to encourage horse owners be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against these diseases spread by mosquitoes,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said. “Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus.”

The NJ Department of Agriculture urges livestock owners to vaccinate against WNV and EEE, especially as mosquito numbers are higher than average this year, they stated.

For more information about EEE in horses, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site at

EEE and West Nile virus, like other viral diseases affecting a horse’s 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