TRENTON, N.J. — A 7-year-old alpaca in Camden County and a 2-year-old gelding horse in Ocean County are the fourth and fifth reported animal cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a serious, mosquito-borne illness, in New Jersey in 2019. The alpaca’s vaccination history was unknown and it was euthanized earlier this month.
Three horses in Ocean County and one horse in Monmouth County have also tested positive for EEE and were each euthanized within the last month.
“These cases are reminders that it is imperative for horse and alpaca owners to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said. “Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Vaccination is the most effective strategy and effective equine vaccines are available commercially. Horse and alpaca owners should also consider using fans in barns and mosquito repellents.”
EEE has been known to affect both horses and camelids, such as alpacas. EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and has a significantly higher risk of death in horses and camelids than West Nile Virus infection. West Nile Virus is a viral disease that affects horses’ and camelids’ neurological system. The disease is transmitted by a mosquito bite. The virus cycles between birds and mosquitoes with horses, camelids and humans being incidental hosts. EEE infections in horses and alpacas are not a significant risk factor for human infection because horses and camelids (like humans) are considered “dead-end” hosts for the virus.
Effective vaccines for EEE and WNV are available commercially. Horse and alpaca owners should contact their veterinarians if their animals are not already up-to-date on their vaccinations against both EEE and WNV.
For more information about EEE, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture web site at: http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/
EEE and West Nile virus, like other viral diseases affecting horses’ neurological system, 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 609-406-6999 or via email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Jeff Wolfe, New Jersey Department of Agriculture