Take care to have your horse vaccinated against West Nile virus, or you may pay a high price, warns the Washington State Department of Agriculture state veterinarian.
In August last year, a two-year-old gelding near Grandview, Wash., was lost to the disease, adds Leonard Eldridge. The horse, he notes, was not vaccinated.
"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," he says. "Outbreaks still present a risk."
It is obvious that the disease is being carried mosquitoes in the Pacific Northwest with the report of humans catching the virus already this year.
Most horses infected with WNV do not become ill, but the virus is fatal in about a third of the horses that show symptoms, says Eldridge.
Horses that show signs of lack of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness and muscle weakness in hindquarters are those to check against the disease.
Infected horses do not spread the disorder to other animals.
To protect your livestock, horse owners are urged to reduce mosquito populations where they can:
•Remove standing water from yards or barns that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
•Remove old tires and garbage that may be rain soaked.
•Change water at least weekly in troughs or bird baths.
•Keep horses in stalls or screened areas during the early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are the most active and feeding.
•Placing fans inside of barns and stalls maintains air movement and discourages mosquitoes from flying
Veterinarians learning of WNV cases in horses or other animals are requested to contact the state veterinarian's office at (306) 902-1881.
Helpful websites are the Washington Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/WNV; USDA at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/wnv.