The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) announced that two horses in Idaho tested positive for West Nile Virus. On Friday, July 26, KIVI TV reported that the horses, one near Parma, Idaho, and the other near Meridian, Idaho, were the first to test positive for the virus this year.
West Nile Virus has spread westward since it was first discovered in bird populations in the New York City area in 1999. Humans and nonhuman animals are typically infected when they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
According to the ISDA, equines (horses, ponies mules, burros, and zebras) and small camelids (alpacas, llamas, vicunas, guanacos) can be protected against West Nile by keeping their West Nile vaccinations up to date and using repellants to keep mosquitoes away.
Symptoms of West Nile in horses include weakness and fever, stumbling, leaning to one side, toe dragging, and a widened stance. Associated mental conditions include fearfulness and depression. Horses with West Nile may also exhibit lip-smacking, fine muscle tremors, and chewing movements. In the worst cases of West Nile, horses may experience paralysis.
The introduction of the West Nile virus vaccination has dramatically decreased the incidence of infections. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2002, 15,000 horses were infected; by 2004, this dropped to 1,341; and in 2005, only 2005.
In 2012, 17 Idaho state residents were were infected with the virus. In 2006, Idaho had the most West Nile infections nationwide, with 1,000 infections, 23 of which were fatal.
On May 16, 2013, the Washington State Veterinarian issued a warning about West Nile in Washington.
In Aug. 2012, a horse near Grandview, Wash. was euthanized after he received a bite from a mosquito infected with West Nile virus. The two-year-old gelding had not been vaccinated against West Nile.
West Nile virus is fatal in approximately one-third of all horses who show symptoms, which include loss of appetite, a loss of coordination, fever, confusion, stiffness, and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters. Horses who are infected with West Nile do not transmit the virus to other animals.
According to the CDC, since 1999, there have been more than 30,000 reports of people becoming sick with West Nile virus in the United States. The King County Department of Health provides resources for people who are concerned about West Nile virus.
Our animals rely upon us to keep them safe and healthy. The Washington State Department of Agriculture recommends the following preventative measures to reduce mosquito populations:
- Removing standing water from yards and barns that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Removing old tires and garbage that may 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.
- Placing fans inside barns and stalls to maintain air movement.
Veterinarians who learn of potential West Nile virus cases in pets or in wild animals should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902 1881.
For more information on West Nile virus infections in animals, visit the state Department of Health or the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more information. The state Department of Health has an interactive map showing 2013 West Nile virus activity.
“Like” the Seattle Pets Examiner column to help share it with others!
If you would like to continue to receive important information, features, and news related to pets in Seattle and beyond, please click the “Subscribe” icon located at the top of this column. It’s free, convenient, and anonymous!
You can also find the Seattle Pets Examiner on Facebook!