Wash. Owners Urged to Vaccinate Horses against WNV

Wash. Owners Urged to Vaccinate Horses against WNV

Washington animal health officials are advising owners to make sure their horses are vaccinated against WNV.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

As the weather warms up across the state and mosquitoes become more prevalent, the Washington State Department of Agriculture is advising owners to make sure their horse’s vaccination is current for protection against West Nile virus (WNV).

In August 2012, a two-year-old gelding pastured near Grandview, Wash., was euthanized after it became ill following a bite from a mosquito infected with WNV. The horse was not vaccinated for the disease.

“It was the only West Nile equine case reported to us last year, but there’s no way to predict the virus won’t return in force this year,” State Veterinarian Leonard Eldridge, DVM, said. “Outbreaks still present a risk.”

West Nile virus is fatal in about one-third of all horses that show symptoms. Horses that become ill show a loss of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness, and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters. Infected horses do not spread West Nile virus to other horses or animals.

To protect their animals, horse owners should take measures to reduce mosquito populations, including:

  • Removing standing water from yards and barns that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes;
  • Removing old tires and garbage that could be rain soaked;
  • Changing water at least weekly in troughs or bird baths;
  • Keeping horses in stalls or screened areas during the early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are the most active and feeding; and
  • Placing fans inside barns and stalls to maintain air movement.

Veterinarians in Washington who learn of potential WNV cases in horses or other animals should contact the state veterinarian’s office at 360/902-1881.

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