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Saturday, August 2, 2008

West Nile Virus in WA State

Washington State Department of Agriculture News Release: Aug. 1, 2008
Contact: Jason Kelly (360) 902-1815

West Nile virus found in Moses Lake and Prosser area horses—first cases in 2008

OLYMPIA - West Nile virus (WNV), a potentially fatal disease in equines, has been confirmed in two horses, one in Moses Lake and the other in the Prosser area, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced today.

These are the first confirmed cases this year of horses contracting West Nile virus in Washington. Last year, eight horses were confirmed for the disease, all in Yakima County.

Washington State University’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman reported the positive test results to WSDA today.

The 24-year-old gelding quarter horse in Moses Lake appears to be recovering. The Prosser horse, a five-year-old quarter horse mare, has been euthanized. Neither horse was vaccinated for WNV.

“The best way to protect a horse from West Nile infection is vaccination,” said Dr. Leonard Eldridge, state veterinarian. “Horse owners with concerns should contact their veterinarian for information on vaccines and annual booster shots.”

Eldridge also recommended that horse owners take measures to reduce mosquito populations by removing standing water from yards and barns and changing water in troughs or bird baths that could be a source of mosquito breeding.

West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and other animals. Humans cannot contract WNV through contact with an infected horse. Infected horses do not spread the disease to other horses or animals. Mosquitoes become carriers when they feed on an infected bird.

Horses that contract WNV may show signs such as loss of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters. Many horses and other animals contracting WNV do not become ill and show no symptoms at all. About one-third of horses that become ill die.

Veterinarians and horse owners should report potential cases of West Nile virus in horses by calling the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902-1878.

More WNV information is available on the following Web sites:

The Washington State Department of Agriculture Web site is at http://agr.wa.gov/.

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4 comments:

Cactus Jack Splash said...

From today's Tri-City Herald
Saturday, Aug. 02, 2008
Toppenish horse killed by West Nile virus
By Mary Hopkin, Herald staff writer
West Nile virus has claimed two Mid-Columbia horses, the first victims of the year in Washington.

The state Department of Agriculture reported Friday that two cases of the virus had been confirmed in Yakima County and Moses Lake.

A 5-year-old quarterhorse mare from the Satus area near Toppenish was euthanized and a 24-year-old quarter horse gelding in Moses Lake appears to be recovering.

Neither horse was vaccinated for the virus, said Dr. Leonard Eldridge, state veterinarian.

Last year, eight horses -- all in Yakima County -- contracted the disease.

Dr. Ernie Munck, a veterinarian in the Lower Valley, said he was called to treat the mare July 25 after she had started to show symptoms that morning.

"She was having a hard time standing, had an increased heart rate and was showing distress," he said.

The horse was very weak and, although he couldn't diagnose the horse with West Nile virus without blood test results, he suspected that was the case.

Munck was the veterinarian who diagnosed the first horse in the state to contract the virus a few years ago.

He said the mare, a pleasure horse kept on irrigated pasture land, was "highly infected" and he had to euthanize her Monday.

WSDA spokesman Jason Kelly said blood samples from the Moses Lake horse were submitted Thursday to Washington State University's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman.

No human cases of West Nile virus were reported in Washington last year, officials said. However, eight horses, a bird and one dog tested positive for the virus in Yakima County.

West Nile is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, which become carriers when they feed on infected birds.

Infected horses do not spread the disease to other animals, Eldridge said.

Horses are most at risk in August and September. Disease symptoms include loss of coordination or appetite, fever, stiffness and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters, and confusion.

About a third of the horses that become ill with the disease die. Age isn't a factor, but the condition of the animal at the time it is exposed to the virus can have an impact, said Kelly.

"According to our veterinary staff, horses with stronger immune systems are more likely to survive exposure," Kelly said. "Just as critical, however, is the amount of virus to which the horse is exposed."

It's not too late to vaccinate horses this year and that is the best way to protect them from infection.

Eldridge said horse owners also should try to reduce mosquito populations on their property by removing standing water from yards and barns and changing water in troughs or bird baths, where mosquitoes might breed.

Veterinarians and horse owners should report potential cases of West Nile virus by calling the State Veterinarian's Office at 360-902-1878.

* On the Net: Department of Health, www.doh.wa.gov/WNV.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Had the first reported case in SD just recently too. Now is the time we start feeding our horses a B-vitamin complex, that has been proven to boost the immune system and ward off West Nile.

Thanks to the rather large numbers of hawks, eagles and owls this year, there aren't many birds around. That reduces the threat too.

Leah Fry said...

Just curious: is the WNV vaccination mandatory everywhere? I believe it is here in TX, or at least my vet does it, no questions asked.

Latigo Liz said...

Vaccination for WNV, or anything else is not mandatory. All vaccinations are highly recommended of course.