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2000 Annual Report

Diagnostic Laboratory
(609) 984-2293

Disease Control
(609) 292-3965



Ernest Zirkle, DVM
Division Director
(609) 292-3965

Interstate Shipment
of Livestock
(609) 292-3965




The Division of Animal Health maintains disease control programs to protect the health and well being of livestock in New Jersey. The division tracks information about emerging diseases around the world that may impact the Garden State, conducts epidemiological investigations of livestock diseases and drug residues, operates an animal health diagnostic laboratory, manages a contagious equine metritis quarantine facility in Long Valley for imported horses and supports an aggressive Johne's disease control program.

Johne's Disease

The department continued to offer a voluntary Johne's disease control program for New Jersey dairy farmers in an effort to control this debilitating, bacterial gastrointestinal disease. It is estimated that farmers with Johne's-infected herds could lose up to $200 per cow every year due to decreased milk production and early culling losses.

In the three years the program has been offered, 36 herds have been enrolled. The cooperative effort among NJDA personnel, Rutgers Cooperative Extension agents, and dairy producers focuses on herd testing and identification of Johne's-positive animals using blood test and fecal cultures, both of which are processed in the NJDA laboratory.

A secondary focus of the program is the development of an individualized herd plan for each producer. The plan helps identify and remedy high-risk areas for Johne's transmission to calves and young stock. NJDA's Johne's control program gives participating dairy producers a head start on compliance with USDA's upcoming Johne's control guidelines.

West Nile Virus

New Jersey's equine owners and racing interests were alarmed in August and September 1999 when the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus (WNV) was recognized in the Western Hemisphere for the first time.

Although the disease caused an unprecedented die-off of crows in New York State; an epidemic of human encephalitis and aseptic meningitis in the New York City metropolitan area; and an epidemic of equine encephalitis on Long Island, there were no confirmed WNV cases in horses this year in the Garden State.

Although infected crows were found in many New Jersey counties, the virus was isolated in only two mosquito pools in Hudson County during the 1999 outbreak in New York. In New Jersey, 45 percent of the dead crows collected in September and October tested positive for WNV, but blood samples from 100 horses statewide showed no evidence of WNV infection.

Experts theorized that the lack of infection resulted from the drought that gripped the state and kept mosquito populations low.

However, with no vaccine or drug treatment available, prevention of the disease during the 2000 mosquito season became a priority. To that end, NJDA worked with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's State Mosquito Control Commission and Rutgers Cooperative Extension to develop a comprehensive plan outlining preventive, control and diagnostic measures for the coming year.

The plan included testing of mosquitoes, sentinel flocks, wild birds, and mammals as well as specific recommendations to decrease the exposure of susceptible species to mosquitoes. Testing commenced on May 1, 2000, and continued into the fall.

Contagious Equine Metritis Quarantine Facility

New Jersey tested more than 100 horses in its contagious equine metritis facility during FY00. The first facility of its kind in the state, the site has been of special value to New Jersey breeders and equestrians bringing valuable Warmblood horses into the United States from countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Great Britain for eventual use in breeding programs or equine competitions.

Avian Influenza

Last year, USDA recognized poultry markets that process birds on site as indicators, rather than sources, of avian influenza (AI), a disease which could be devastating to the state's poultry industry. NJDA brought together officials from Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania to establish uniform rules and procedures for markets to minimize the occurrence of AI. NJDA also continued its annual monitoring visits to these markets throughout the tri-state area to determine which strain of the AI virus is circulating in the bird population.

This year, meetings of the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Extension, the Northeast United States Animal Health Association and the Live Bird Market Working Group focused on the routine recurrence of low-pathogen AI at specific markets in New Jersey and New York. During the annual testing of the markets in New Jersey, 40 percent of them tested positive for the low-pathogen strain of this virus. The positive markets were cleaned and disinfected. NJDA also requested USDA to do a thorough epidemiological investigation of the disease in the New Jersey-New York markets so that effective measures can be implemented to stop the spread of this disease.

Pseudorabies Virus

Pseudorabies virus (PRV) is a swine disease that also affects cattle, horses, sheep and goats. It is very contagious and causes production losses, reproductive problems and death in breeding and finishing hogs. In 1989, USDA established a PRV eradication program and recently accelerated the program to support eradication efforts. New Jersey had acquired Stage IV status, two steps from being declared PRV-free. Despite outbreaks of the disease this year on seven farms in Gloucester and Cumberland Counties, thanks to immediate intervention by NJDA and help from USDA, New Jersey was able to maintain its Stage IV status in all but those two counties, which reverted to Stage III. Continuous testing and eradication on the affected farms, followed by cleaning, disinfection and additional testing, will proceed as mandated by USDA protocol.

Laboratory Services

NJDA's animal health laboratory conducts a wide variety of tests to support domestic livestock disease control programs, including veterinary bacteriology, virology, serology, pathology and histology.

Equine veterinarians in New Jersey rely on the laboratory for required Coggins tests for equine infectious anemia (EIA) as well as tests for Eastern equine encephalitis, equine influenza, Lyme disease, Potomac horse fever, herpes virus, and equine viral arteritis.

New Jersey's bovine practitioners depend on the laboratory for tests such as bovine viral diarrhea, para-influenza, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, brucellosis, and Johne's, among others.

In addition, the laboratory prepares specimens and coordinates testing for some foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases.

This year, the diagnostic laboratory successfully completed the most recent round of certification testing administered by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for EIA and Johne's as required for all government labs doing regulatory tests including EIA, bluetongue and pseudorabies. Through these and other services, the laboratory supports New Jersey's livestock industry, providing private veterinarians with fast, accurate, convenient and economical animal health testing services.

Constituent Outreach

The Division of Animal Health provides critical services to the state's livestock producers. To carry out this mission, division staff must stay well informed on legislative, legal and animal health issues at the national and international levels. To this end, staff participates as working members of a number of animal health organizations, including the New Jersey Veterinary Medicine Association, the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners and the United States Animal Health Association.

Staff also meets regularly with a number of other professional boards and associations, such as the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners; the Veterinary Advisory Committee to the Racing Commission; the New Jersey Domestic Preparedness Planning/Coordinating Group and the Animal Emergency Preparedness and Response Committee; the Bioterrorism Surveillance Advisory Group and others.

This year, through legislative mandate, NJDA undertook development of rules establishing minimum standards for the raising, breeding, care, and marketing of livestock in New Jersey. The effort is the first attempt to codify accepted livestock management practices for New Jersey producers.


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