More West Nile Virus in Florida

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has received reports of two positive cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and one positive case of West Nile virus (WNV) in horses in Polk County, Florida. This marks the descent of WNV into southern Florida.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today called on horse owners and the general public to step up their guard against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. “Florida was spared last year,” said Bronson, who noted that most of Florida’s WNV and EEE equine cases during 2001 were located in the Panhandle. “West Nile virus is not the kind of disease that goes off the radar in six months or a couple years. As with the mosquitoes that carry it, West Nile is now a Florida resident.”

The best way to prevent exposure of horses to mosquito-borne diseases is to minimize exposure to mosquitoes. Florida horse owners should clean up backyards and neighborhoods to prevent pooling of water in containers that supports the breeding and hatching of mosquitoes, and should have their horses vaccinated against EEE and WNV “at least three times yearly,” according to FDACS.

Horses that have never been vaccinated should be given an initial dose followed by a second dose in three to four weeks. Unvaccinated and previously vaccinated horses should be protected by immediate vaccination and followed by appropriately timed boosters. Contact your veterinarian for further information and to schedule vaccination for your horses.

The most common signs of West Nile virus infection in U.S. horses have been stumbling or incoordination, weakness of limbs, partial paralysis, muscle twitching and in some cases, death. Fever has been detected in less than one-quarter of all confirmed cases. One of the most important indicators of WNV and EEE presence is the surveillance and monitoring of wild bird populations, Bronson said. Toward that end, he is encouraging residents to report wild bird deaths to their county health departments.


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