First Equine WNV Case Reported in Virginia

Virginia health officials confirmed the state’s first case of equine West Nile virus (WNV) on Sept. 19. The affected 12-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, located in Albemarle County, is currently recovering. The owners had been told when they bought the gelding in the spring that he had been vaccinated, but documentation was never provided.

Virginia’s first case comes late in the season, which usually sees cases cropping up in mid-June. "We’ve had a late start to the West Nile virus season partially because of the unseasonably cool spring," said David Gaines, state public health epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health.

Gaines also attributed the late start to the overall decline of reported WNV cases seen in Virginia over the past two years. In 2004, only 16 equine cases of WNV were reported, compared to 232 cases reported in 2003.

"A lot of horses have become resistant to the virus and the owners have improved their vaccinating habits," Gaines said. He remains positive about the declining number of cases, but he worries that the numbers are not completely accurate.

"The disease is no longer a novelty to people, and sometimes owners take it upon themselves to diagnose their horse with West Nile and put him down before ever confirming it," Gaines noted, adding, "It may be a true decline, but the numbers may not be as true as we are seeing."

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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