Preventing West Nile virus in horses

Reported by: Rebecca Rivers
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Updated: 5/23/2013 10:22 am
Summer is nearly here and with that comes the blistering heat and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are the main carrier of the West Nile virus, which has been found in humans, birds and horses. 
But when it comes to horse owners,Stephanie Thomas, DVM. said there is no worry in being around a horse with the disease. 

"Horses and people are what is called dead end hosts," Thomas said. "So if you are infected with it or your horse is infected with it, it cannot pass it onto another horse or to a person and there hasn't been any, you know, evidence that people have transmitted it to other people or to horses or vice versa."

There are ways to prevent your horse from getting the disease with vaccinations, but there are also preventative measure that can be taken around the barn as well. 

"The main way to keep West Nile away is to keep the mosquitoes away, and so you want to eliminate any standing water," Thomas said. "If you have any troughs for your horses make sure you are regularly cleaning them out. You can put fans in your barn to kind of keep the air flow and you can even spray mosquito repellent on your horse. Signs of West Nile in horses would be fever, lethargy, just not acting right, not wanting to eat. In more advanced cases they'll become wobbly or ataxic. They will have trouble walking, maybe stand in the stall and head press, you know anything neurologic."

If you believe your horse has West Nile virus, please go to the nearest veterinarian to get treated. Following an annual vaccination program is also a preventative measure that can be taken. 

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