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Gloucester County Horse
Dies of Eastern Equine Encephalitis
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NJDA Urges Horse Owners to Vaccinate Animals
For Immediate Release: August 22, 2000 Contact:

Hope Gruzlovic


State Veterinarian Dr. Ernest Zirkle 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 Thoroughbred in Newfield, Gloucester County. The animal had not been vaccinated against the disease this year. Zirkle cautioned that it is important not to confuse EEE with West Nile Virus (WNV). "They are completely different diseases but share some characteristics -- in both cases mosquitoes carry the virus to the host animal after feeding on infected wild birds, " he said. "and neither virus can be spread from horse to horse or from horse to human. A significant difference between the viruses is existence of an effective vaccine for EEE but not for WNV." Wet, warm weather can result in an increase in the mosquitoes that carry this disease. EEE poses a mortal risk for horses that haven't been properly vaccinated to prevent the disease. "This is usually a summer disease problem in New Jersey but we won't be out of the woods until a hard freeze ends mosquito activity," Zirkle noted, "so we may have as much as three months of mosquito season left. "A vaccination could mean the difference between life and death for a horse that's stricken with the disease," he added. "Horse owners should check their records to 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. It's literally a matter of life and death if the horse is bitten by a virus-carrying mosquito." Horses must receive two initial doses of vaccine at a 10 to 14 day interval and an annual immunization thereafter. No cases of the disease were reported in New Jersey last year, most likely because the severe drought interrupted mosquito breeding cycles.