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West Nile Virus Claims Sussex County Horse;
Third Case Confirmed In Atlantic County
For Immediate Release: September 27, 2000 Contact:

Hope Gruzlovic


Agriculture Secretary Art Brown Jr. said today that the first two Sussex County cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in horses have just been confirmed along with an additional case in Atlantic County. The Sussex County horses are a seven-year-old quarter horse stallion that succumbed to infection from the virus on September 4 and a 20-year-old gelding pony that is recovering from the infection. The two horses were stabled over 10 miles apart from each other in Sussex County. A third case in the Hammonton area of Atlantic County was also confirmed in a 14-year-old thoroughbred mare. This horse had recovered from WNV but died recently from non-related causes. Not all horses that contract WNV become ill. These cases raise to six the number of equine that have shown symptoms of WNV with three of the six euthanized because of the disease's effects. The deaths occurred in Cape May, Ocean and Sussex Counties. NJDA's Division of Animal Health has collected samples from all stablemates of these animals and will take a second sample four to six weeks following the first. The samples will be tested later this fall at a USDA-approved laboratory to derive a better picture of the extent and biological impact of WNV infection in New Jersey horses. NJDA veterinarians are also collecting information from each affected stable in an effort to discern any patterns of risk that can be used to provide additional recommendations for protective measures horse owners can take to safeguard their animals. Horses become infected with WNV when infected mosquitoes bite them. In the absence of a vaccine or cure for WNV, preventive measures become critical. The disease cannot be spread from horse-to-horse or from an infected horse to humans or domestic pets. In cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health and Senior Services and USDA, NJDA has launched a proactive campaign to educate horse owners about the precautions they must take to decrease mosquito habitat, virtually the only way horse owners can minimize the chance of an animal being stricken with WNV. Recommended actions include decreasing mosquito habitats near homes and stable areas by emptying standing water from cans, tires, swimming pool covers, clogged gutters or other reservoirs which can serve as mosquito breeding sites and by frequently changing the fresh water in drinking troughs to prevent them from becoming breeding sites.

Although there is no preventive vaccine for WNV, equine encephalitis is a reportable disease in New Jersey and is treated symptomatically. Concerned horse owners should contact their veterinarians for additional information or consultation about specific cases of illness in their animals.

For more information on WNV or mosquito spraying, or to report dead birds and areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed, residents should call their local or county Departments of Health and mosquito control agencies or visit the web sites maintained by DHSS (www.state.nj.us/health), DEP (www.state.nj.us/dep/mosquito), the CDC (www.cdc.gov), and NJDA (www.state.nj.us/agriculture/westnile.htm).