The state is asking horse owners to be vigilant in vaccinating their animals against diseases spread by mosquitoes.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, three horses were euthanized in August after testing positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Both horses in Morris County had not been vaccinated; the other in Ocean County was only recently vaccinated.

"Vaccinated animals are much less likely to contract deadly diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus," New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher said in a press release.

According to the state, EEE causes inflammation of the brain tissue and poses a higher risk of death for horses than West Nile.

Dr. Dante Costagliola, an equine veterinarian in Point pleasant, said there's a "tremendous" amount of non-compliance in New Jersey on the vaccination front.

"After all, it is up to the owner," Costagliola told New Jersey 101.5. "It's just like people: You could choose not to vaccinate at all if you don't want to."

It's recommended EEE vaccines are administered on a yearly basis, Costagliola said. The vaccine is typically packaged with protections against other illnesses, and it would typically be administered ahead of the warmer months.

The owner of Legacy Ranch in Howell said the site's 45 horses are vaccinated regularly, usually at the direction of experts such as Costagliola.

Infected horses are not considered a threat to humans, who can also host the virus. The biggest threat to humans is the bite of an infected mosquito. Severe cases can begin with vomiting and a high fever, eventually progressing into disorientation, seizures and coma.

Approximately five to 10 human cases are reported annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no specific treatment.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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