Friday, September 13, 2019

First case of equine West Nile virus for 2019 diagnosed

Chris McGann

Vaccinating horses against West Nile virus is the best way to
protect them from the disease. 
A quarter horse in Klickitat County tested positive for West Nile virus this week in what has been a light year for the disease. It is Washington’s first reported case this year.

The two-year-old gelding, had not been vaccinated for the disease.

The horse was treated for what appeared to be colic but its condition worsened quickly, becoming ataxic or unable to control its muscles the following day.

The horse’s condition is improving and the referring veterinarian has guarded optimism for its recovery.

Vaccinate your horse

Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph said the disease is not always fatal to the infected horse, but most cases that do prove deadly occur in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated animals.

“This is a good reminder for horse owners to protect their animals by vaccinating for this preventable disease,” Joseph said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 493 equine cases of West Nile virus from 42 states were reported in 2018.

Last year, two horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus statewide, but some years have seen much higher numbers of infected horses. In 2015, 36 cases were reported in Washington, with several horses dying or being euthanized as a result of the disease.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds and while it can sicken people, horses, birds and other animals, it does not directly spread from horses to people or other animals.

Watch for symptoms

West Nile virus is prevalent across the country, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of infection in horses. Closely observe your horse and look for signs, which include:

• Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher
• Discharge from eyes or nose
• Limb edema or swelling
• Spontaneous abortions
• Neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dribbling, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Veterinarians who diagnose potential West Nile virus cases should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902-1878.

Visit WSDA’s West Nile virus webpage or the state Department of Health for more information.