With the start of mosquito season, the Utah State Veterinarian is encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their horses for West Nile virus (WNV) to avoid the risk of becoming infected with this virus, which affects horses, birds and humans.
« Over the past three years, Utah has had 24 reported cases of West Nile virus in horses, » said interim state veterinarian Dr. Amanda Price. « In an effort to prevent more horses from getting this disease, it’s important for horse owners to vaccinate their horses against this virus. »
According to several mosquito abatement programs, parts of Utah are seeing up to five times more mosquitoes this year than in a normal year, raising the possibility that horses could be bitten and potentially infected.
Signs of WNV in horses include stumbling, a shaky gait, circling, inability to stand, blindness, fever, and death. Not all horses that become infected will show signs of disease, but one-third of horses showing neurological signs of WNV will die or be euthanized, and up to 40% of those that recover may have long-term problems.
Any horse exhibiting neurological signs should be seen by a veterinarian. The disease can be diagnosed through a simple blood test. There is no specific treatment for WNV, but owners and veterinarians can provide supportive care such as anti-inflammatory medications or fluids to help the horse recover. Humans and horses cannot transmit the disease to each other.
Horse owners should work with their veterinarian to protect their horse from WNV. Horses should be vaccinated for WNV once a year in the spring or early summer before mosquito season begins. Horses that have never been vaccinated before should be boosted to be fully protected. Owners can also practice good mosquito control, such as removing standing water, cleaning water troughs regularly, using mosquito repellents, and bringing horses inside at dawn and dusk, which are peak feeding times. some mosquitoes.
For more information on accessing a WNV vaccination, horse owners should contact their veterinarian.