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For Immediate Release: September 12, 2001 Contact:

Hope Gruzlovic


Agriculture Secretary Art Brown Jr. said today that the death last week of a 20-year-old gelding in Mt Laurel, Burlington County, has been attributed to infection with the West Nile virus (WNV). According to State Veterinarian Dr. Ernest Zirkle, the horse became ill on August 29, showing signs of hind limb weakness and abnormal movement and was euthanized on August 30 after its condition worsened. NJDA's animal health laboratory tested blood samples from the horse for both Eastern and Western equine encephalitis as well as WNV. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) laboratory also tested samples for rabies and WNV and samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa for confirmation.* Test results confirmed the presence of WNV only. Horses contract WNV when infected mosquitoes bite them. The disease cannot be spread from horse-to-horse or from an infected horse to humans or domestic pets. Not all horses that contract WNV become ill. However, last year, 28 horses in New Jersey exhibited neurological signs consistent with encephalitis and were diagnosed with WNV infection. Of those, eight were euthanized. Very few (4 percent) of the stablemates of the affected horses showed were infected but did not exhibit any signs of the disease. In order to minimize the risk of WNV infection, NJDA, in cooperation with DHSS, NJDEP and the State Mosquito Control Commission have offered horse owners, homeowners and veterinarians a variety of information, through direct mailings and on NJDA's web site at http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/westnile.htm. Recommendations 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. Last month, a limited supply of a conditionally-licensed WNV vaccine was made available to licensed veterinarians in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Florida. The manufacturer expects to have sufficient vaccine to meet national demand in the near future. Horse owners interested in having their horses vaccinated should contact their veterinarians for additional information or consultation about their animals. WNV, like other viral diseases affecting horses' neurological systems, MUST be reported to the State Veterinarian, 609-292-3965, within 48 hours. This information is essential to initiate the procedures used to protect other horses and humans from the mosquitoes carrying the virus. This year, the first horse diagnosed with WNV was located in Florida. As of September 4, 2001, a total of 66 equine cases have been reported involving the following states: Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. For information about human WNV disease in New Jersey, the collection and reporting of dead birds infected with the virus, or to report areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed, contact your local health department or mosquito control agencies or visit the NJDA website mentioned above, the state WNV website at http://www.state.nj.us/governor/westnile/, DHSS (www.state.nj.us/health), DEP (www.state.nj.us/dep/mosquito), and the CDC (www.cdc.gov). _______________________________
* Confirmatory tests, performed at NVSL, are required for a definitive diagnosis to be accepted by USDA.