Department of Agriculture | CAPE MAY COUNTY HORSE CONTRACTS EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS skip to main content skip to main navigation
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First Reported Case of 2013


For Immediate Release: August 20, 2013
Contact: Lynne Richmond            
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) – A 7-year-old horse from Cape May County was humanely euthanized on August 3 one day after showing neurologic symptoms for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness in horses. Tests on the gelding concluded the animal was positive for EEE.

“Horse owners need to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  “Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus.”

The Cape May horse was obtained from a horse rescue two weeks prior to the onset of illness and the animal’s vaccination history was unknown.

In 2012, New Jersey had six cases of EEE and four cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) between June and October. 

Effective equine vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians if their horses are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.

EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses than West Nile Virus infection.  West Nile virus is a viral disease that affects horses’ neurological systems.  The disease is transmitted by mosquito bite.  The virus cycles between birds and mosquitoes with horses and humans being incidental hosts.  EEE infections in horses are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses (like humans) are considered to be "dead-end" hosts for the virus.

For more information about EEE in horses, visit www.cfsph.iastate.edu/FastFacts/pdfs/easter_wester_venezuelan_equine_encephalomyelitis_F.pdf

EEE and West Nile virus, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurological systems, must be reported to the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400 within 48 hours of diagnosis. The New Jersey Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory is available to assist with EEE and WNV testing and can be reached at 609-671-6999.