Help Prevent West Nile Virus: It’s Not Too Late to Vaccinate

Help Prevent West Nile Virus: It’s Not Too Late to Vaccinate

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

In 2016, 377 equine cases of West Nile virus (WNV) were reported in 32 different states. And this year, WNV cases are already being reported across the country. However, it’s not too late to vaccinate and protect your horse.

“Every horse is at risk for West Nile virus,” says John Tuttle, DVM, director of equine professional services for Boehringer Ingelheim. “The best prevention strategy for WNV is to minimize mosquitos and keep your horses up-to-date on their vaccinations.”

WNV is transmitted to horses through infected mosquitos. Mosquitos carry the pathogen from infected birds and pass it to horses when they bite. Once infected, horses can show signs of depression, anorexia, lack of appetite, lethargy, and sudden progression of neurological diseases. Some cases have led to death. There is currently no specific cure for the disease (only supportive care), so preventive measures are highly recommended.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recognizes the WNV vaccine as one of five core vaccines and recommends horses receive at least one dose annually. Horse owners are encouraged to consider more frequent boosters (twice yearly) in areas with year-round mosquito seasons and in endemic areas.

The optimal time to vaccinate horses for WNV is prior to mosquito season in the area, as it prepares horses for the peak transmission period, typically during late summer. However, horses can still benefit from a WNV vaccine at any time. Several options are available to meet the needs of your horse.

“As the number of West Nile virus cases being reported are increasing, it’s important to contact and work with your veterinarian to determine the best WNV prevention strategy for your horse,” Tuttle says.

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