Delaware Horse Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

The Delaware Department of Agriculture has confirmed that a horse from a farm on the northwest side of Clayton has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). This is the first appearance of the virus in Delaware.

The horse was first identified as a possible WNV case on October 10; however, state officials could not make a positive diagnosis without the results of extensive lab tests performed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The horse is currently being treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery.

Dr. Wesley Towers, state veterinarian, urges Delaware horse owners to contact their veterinarian if they suspect a horse has been infected with WNV. Symptoms in horses include listlessness, muscle spasms in the head and neck area, and weakness in the hind limbs. At this time, a vaccine against WNV does not exist. Early detection is the only way to help prevent a serious and possibly fatal infection. An infected horse poses no danger to humans. WNV is carried by wild birds and can only be transmitted to humans and other mammals through mosquito bites.

"It is not surprising that the West Nile Virus has surfaced in Delaware considering that the virus had expanded to other states located to the immediate north, east and west of Delaware," said David E. Saveikis, program manager for the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Mosquito Control in Kent and Sussex County.

According to Saveikis, the Mosquito Control Section will continue to operate its statewide West Nile Virus monitoring network and to interact with the Department of Agriculture's state veterinarian regarding West Nile Virus and horses.

Individuals who find dead crows, blue jays or birds of prey are asked to call DNREC's Mosquito Control Section (Division of Fish and Wildlife), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 302/323-4492 for New Castle County; or 302/422-1512 for Kent or Sussex counties. During evening and weekend hours and holidays, calls should be made to DNREC's 24-hour emergency line at 800/523-3336 (KentCom). The dead birds should not be handled without protective gloves and clothing. People cannot catch the West Nile Virus by handling birds, but dead birds may carry other infectious diseases.

For more information about West Nile Virus, please call the Division of Public Health, 302/739-5617.  For further information at the Department of Agriculture, contact Rich Neumann, 302-739-4811 during business hours, or Anne Fitzgerald, 302/242-4092 after hours

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