Colorado Confirms First Equine West Nile Case of 2013

Colorado Confirms First Equine West Nile Case of 2013

Vaccines have proven to be a very effective tool in reducing WNV risk in horses.

Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

Colorado's first reported equine case of West Nile virus (WNV) has been diagnosed as of Aug. 14. The WNV positive horse is a 3-month-old colt from Montezuma County.

“West Nile Virus is a disease that threatens the health of humans, horses, and other animals,” said Colorado State Veterinarian Keith Roehr, DVM. “This is the time of year when we are most likely to see it reported in horse. sIt is difficult to project how many cases we may see in the coming months.”

The transmission of the disease varies from year to year and depends on a number of factors including mosquito numbers. WNV can be carried by infected birds and then spread locally by mosquitoes that bite those birds. The mosquitoes can then pass the virus to humans and animals.

Infected horses can display symptoms including head tilt, muscle tremors, stumbling, lack of coordination, limb weakness, and partial paralysis. The clinical signs of WNV are consistent with other important neurologic diseases such as equine encephalitis, rabies, and equine herpes virus; therefore it is important to work with your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis through laboratory testing. Horse owners should also consult their private practicing veterinarian to determine an appropriate disease prevention plan for their horses.

Vaccines have proven to be a very effective tool in reducing disease risk in horses. Horses that have been vaccinated in past years will need an annual booster shot. However, if animal horse hasn't been vaccinated in previous years, the horse will need a two-shot vaccination series within a three to six week period.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing stagnant water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times (typically early in the morning and evening), and using mosquito repellents.

“It is important to protect your horse through WNV vaccination and good management practices,” said Roehr.

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