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First Reported Case of 2012

For Immediate Release: June 6, 2012
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) – A 3-year-old horse from Burlington County euthanized on May 27 tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses.

“It is very early in the season to see Eastern Equine Encephalitis so horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  “We hope this incident will raise awareness about the need to protect our official state animal from this and other harmful diseases, especially since June is the Month of the Horse in our state.”

EEE is preventable by vaccination. Effective equine vaccines for EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile Virus (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 West Nile virus. The Burlington County mare had been given the first in a series of two planned EEE vaccinations by a private veterinarian at the beginning of May.

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 systems.  The disease is transmitted by mosquito bite.  The virus cycles 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.

In 2011, New Jersey had one case of EEE and one case of equine WNV.  One animal was euthanized, the other recovered.  Both cases came in October after Hurricane Irene and subsequent rains caused flooding that resulted in much higher than normal mosquito populations. 

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

EEE and West Nile virus, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurological systems, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400 within 48 hours of diagnosis.