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Hope Gruzlovic

Agriculture Secretary Art Brown today urged horse owners throughout the Garden State to consult their veterinarians about the need to vaccinate their horses and other equids against Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a disease blamed for the death earlier this month of a three-year-old Thoroughbred colt in the Vincentown area of Burlington County. The animal had never been vaccinated against the disease.

EEE is spread by mosquitoes which have fed on infected wild birds and cannot spread from horse to horse or from horse to humans. "Wet, warm weather can result in an increase in the mosquitoes that carry this disease," said Brown. AClearly, Eastern equine encephalitis poses a mortal risk for horses that haven't been properly vaccinated to prevent the disease. "We still have about three months of mosquito season left," he noted, "and the vaccination could mean the difference between life and death for a horse that's stricken with the disease. We recommend that horse owners make sure that EEE vaccinations and boosters are kept up to date. ANY HORSE THAT HASN'T RECEIVED A PRIMARY SERIES OR BOOSTER WITHIN THE LAST SIX MONTHS SHOULD BE GIVEN THE VACCINATION OR BOOSTER NOW." Horses must receive two initial doses of vaccine at a 10-day or two week interval and an annual immunization thereafter. Brown added that it's not too late this year for horse owners to have their animals vaccinated. "This is usually a summer disease problem in New Jersey," Brown added, "but we won't be out of the woods until a hard freeze ends mosquito activity."

Only one case of EEE was reported in horses last year.