West Nile Virus Rears a danger to the horse population

That buzzing sound in your ear might be more than just annoying, it might be the sound of impending danger to yourself or your equine friend, according to equine veterinarian, Dr. Richard Vetter, Foothill Veterinary Hospital in Buckley.

West Nile Virus, a viral disease that can sicken people, many types of birds, horses and other animals is making a resurgence across the US this year. The disease is spread by mosquitos that have fed on an infected wild bird. The WNV is then passed to the mosquito’s next meal, be it a human or a horse. Infected horses do not directly spread the disease to other horses or animals.

Dr. Vetter states that the majority of WNV cases in horses are preventable with vaccination. Vaccinating a horse or getting the proper booster injections is the best way to protect the animal and prevent greater expense of treating a horse infected with the disease.

The initial vaccination is a 2 shot series, 30 days apart with an annual booster. Horses that are not current on their boosters have been known to contract the disease.

Infected animals that become ill may show a loss of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness and muscle weakness, particularly in the hind quarters. The disease kills one out of three horses that show these clinical signs.

In 2009, WA led the nation with 72 cases, with no cases reported in 2010 and 2011 but this year, an infected unvaccinated horse has recently been identified in Yakima County and euthanized.

Along with correct vaccination protocol, other steps that owners can follow to reduce mosquito populations include:

--removing standing water from yards and barns

--removing old tires that may be rain soaked

--changing water at least weekly in troughs and bird baths

--keep horses in stalls or screened areas during early morning or evening hours when mosquitos

are the most active and feeding


Dr. Vetter can be reached at Foothills Veterinary Hospital, 360-829-0500 for more information.

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