TRENTON – The state Department of Agriculture is urging horse owners to have their animals vaccinated after a horse in Monmouth County tested positive for having West Nile Virus.
The disease, which affects the animals’ neurological systems, was believed to have been contracted by the horse after it was bitten by an infected mosquito. The disease isn’t spread between horses, but vaccinations are recommended.
“We urge horse owners to vaccinate their animals from serious mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” Agriculture Department Secretary Douglas Fisher said in a release. “We have found that animals that are vaccinated are less likely to contract these deadly diseases.”
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection believes the high amount of rainfall statewide from Hurricane Irene and other rainstorms produced larger than normal mosquito populations. They said the immense amount of floodwater throughout the state created habitat for those species of mosquitoes which use semi-permanent, standing water for larval development.
The 11-year-old mare from Monmouth County tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV), and was not vaccinated against the disease. The horse first showed symptoms of WNV on Oct. 10 and is being treated for the disease. This is the first reported case this year.
Currently, no cases of another mosquito-borne illness of horses, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), have been reported in horses in 2011, the state reported. EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection.
In 2010, New Jersey had two cases of equine WNV and one case of EEE. All three animals were euthanized.
For more information about EEE and West Nile Virus in horses, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site.
Effective equine vaccines for WNV and EEE have been available for several years. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians now if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and West Nile virus.
West Nile virus and EEE, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurological systems, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-292-3965 within two days.