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Annual Report 1998
Division Director
(609) 292-3965

Diagnostic Laboratory
(609) 984-2293

Disease Control
(609) 292-3965

Interstate Shipment of Livestock
(609) 292-3965

Animal Health

Ernest Zirkle, DVM, Director

The Division of Animal Health maintains disease control programs to protect the health and well-being of livestock in New Jersey. The division conducts epidemiological investigations of diseases and drug residues, operates an animal health diagnostic laboratory and manages a contagious equine metritis quarantine facility for imported horses.

Equine Health

Equine Infectious Anemia

Two separate cases of equine infectious anemia (EIA) were found in New Jersey this year. In both instances, the horses had been brought in from out-of-state. EIA is a viral disease of horses which debilitates the immune system. There is no vaccine to prevent infection from this virus which is transmitted by biting insects and contaminated needles.

Horses EIA was common in the United States until the advent of the Coggins diagnostic test and USDA EIA regulations on the interstate transport of horses. Now, once an EIA-positive horse is identified, department personnel must locate owners of horses which might have come into contact with the positive horse so that the contact horses can be tested for the disease. When out-of-state horses are identified as possible contacts with an infected horse, those state veterinarians are also notified.

As a result of the FY98 EIA cases, trace-back on the positive horses resulted in the testing of over 70 horses in Pennsylvania and 42 horses in New Jersey, primarily in Salem and Cape May Counties. No further cases of the disease were identified.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

One case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) was diagnosed in New Jersey last year. Although more than 20 cases of this viral disease were diagnosed in the 1980s, fewer than half that number have been diagnosed in the 1990s. Part of the disease's decline can be attributed to better horse owner education and greater awareness of the need to vaccinate horses annually against this mosquito-borne illness combined with statewide control measures implemented by the New Jersey Mosquito Control Commission.

The disease is always fatal to an unvaccinated equine while vaccinated animals suffer no ill effects if bitten by a virus- carrying insect.

Contagious Equine Metritis

New Jersey is one of 18 states approved by the USDA to receive for quarantine and testing stallions and mares imported from countries known to be endemic for contagious equine metritis (CEM), a serious equine venereal disease not found in the United States. Since it opened in 1994, approximately 200 horses have passed through the facility in Long Valley with the first CEM-positive stallion identified this year.

Reporting the positive finding to USDA revealed that laboratory procedures currently used in Germany on horses being exported were inadequate to detect infected stallions and that USDA testing requirements needed revision. Division personnel presented this CEM case report at both the Northeast and United States Animal Health Association meetings.

In an effort to standardize the handling of horses at CEM quarantine facilities across the nation, the department developed a Protocols and Procedures manual, including detailed standard operating procedures based on those used at the state CEM facility, and offered it to USDA as a model for CEM facilities to follow. Because of experiences here and elsewhere in the country with imported CEM- infected horses, at its annual meeting the United States Animal Health Association called for a special task force to review current import testing requirements. The department will continue to monitor procedural improvements closely.

Goats - Nose to Nose

Bovine Health

The department continued to offer a voluntary Johne's disease control program for New Jersey dairy farmers in an effort to control this debilitating gastrointestinal bacterial disease. It is estimated that farmers with infected herds lose $200 per head every year. Farmers participating in the NJDA program will have a head start on compliance with USDA's Johne's control program guidelines when the pending national program is launched.

Avian Health

In response to the avian influenza (AI) outbreaks in Pennsylvania, this winter the department cooperated in an avian influenza survey of live-kill poultry markets in New Jersey, coinciding with similar surveys of live-kill poultry markets in New York and Pennsylvania. The AI virus which causes disease in chickens was found in 50 to 70 percent of the markets tested in each state. The department will continue to work with farmers, market operators and federal and neighboring state agencies to control AI outbreaks.

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. Veterinarians in New Jersey rely on the laboratory for required Coggins tests as well as tests for Eastern equine encephalitis, equine influenza, Lyme disease, Potomac horse fever, herpes virus, equine viral arteritis and Johne's disease.

In addition, the laboratory prepares specimens and coordinates testing for some foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases such as rabies. Through these and other services, the laboratory supports New Jersey's livestock industry by providing private veterinarians with an in-state source of disease testing that provides fast, accurate, convenient and economical animal health testing services.

National Animal Health Monitoring System

Recently USDA established the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) to provide animal species baseline data on health and management practices nationwide. This year, NAHMS identified the horse as the survey species and New Jersey was one of 28 states selected to participate. The NAHMS survey objectives were to gather data regarding horse management practices, the prevalence of specific infectious agents and health problems including colic, lameness, parasites, and respiratory disease.

With assistance from the New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service, the department visited randomly selected horse farms, completed horse owner surveys and collected biological samples. Completed surveys and samples were then submitted to USDA to be entered into the national database. The department will continue to work with USDA in future survey programs, including the National Animal Health Reporting System which is currently being developed.

Constituent Outreach

As part of its continuing effort to communicate with and educate its constituencies, the department hosted the second food waste symposium during Farmers' Week. This year, 20 states sent representatives to the two-day session where the group drafted a mission statement and objectives, the first steps in becoming a national organization dedicated to the advancement of commercial food waste recycling.

A conference concerning emergency livestock management was also held. The conference was co-sponsored by NJDA, the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, the State Police Office of Emergency Management and USDA with assistance from the American Red Cross. New Jersey's efforts to prepare for livestock care and health management in the face of a disaster continues to be an important undertaking and is gaining attention around the country. Institutionalizing the program is critical because the infrastructure used in a natural disaster program can easily be modified to handle livestock disease outbreaks as well.

In addition, this year the department collaborated with the New Jersey Association of Equine Practitioners to launch a newsletter for New Jersey horse owners. The purpose of the newsletter is to provide horse owners and horse clubs with information on current health and regulatory issues affecting the horse industry in the state.

Department personnel also worked closely with the American Horse Council and the American Horse Protection Association to draft industry recommendations for federal regulations to enforce the Safe Commercial Transportation of Equine to Slaughter Act, passed as part of the 1996 Farm Bill. Recommendations by this working group are now under consideration by USDA for publication in the Federal Register for comment.

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