Ocean County Horse Infected With Serious Mosquito-Borne Illness

Horse. (File photo)
Horse. (File photo)

  OCEAN COUNTY – A two-year old Ocean County horse and a seven-year old Camden County alpaca are now the fourth and fifth reported cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in animals in the state so far this year.

  Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a serious, mosquito-borne illness. So far, three horses in Ocean County and one horse in Monmouth County have tested positive for EEE. Each of the horses and the alpaca were euthanized within the last month. The alpaca’s vaccination history was unknown. 

  “These cases are reminders that it is imperative for horse and alpaca owners to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against 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 Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Vaccination is the most effective strategy and effective equine vaccines are available commercially. Horse and alpaca owners should also consider using fans in barns and mosquito repellents.”

  According to officials, EEE has been known to affect both horses and camelids, such as alpacas. The disease can cause inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses and camelids than West Nile Virus infection.

  However, it is important to note that EEE infections in horses and alpacas are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses and camelids (like humans) are considered “dead-end” hosts for the virus.

  Officials urge horse and alpaca owners to contact their veterinarians if their animals are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.

  For more information about EEE, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site at: nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ah/diseases/diseaseworksheets.html.

  EEE and West Nile virus must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400 within 48 hours of diagnosis.