MySanAntonio.com – West Nile Virus cases in humans are at their highest level since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). West Nile Virus cases in horses are also on the rise, says the CDC.
Dr. Tracy Norman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Large Animal Clinic, says vaccines against West Nile are the best way to prevent infection in horses. While the vaccine is not 100 percent effective at preventing the disease, it can help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Vaccinated horses that do become sick with West Nile Virus are in general less sick, requiring less intensive treatment, are sick for shorter periods of time, and have a better chance at making a full recovery than unvaccinated horses. Vaccination against West Nile Virus is recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners as one of the core vaccines that all horses should receive.
Additionally, horse owners can take steps to reduce the amount of mosquitoes around their facilities by eliminating standing water; keeping stalls and pens clean; using equine mosquito repellents, fly sheets, and fly masks; and placing fans inside stalls since mosquitoes have difficulty flying in wind.
Norman explained that the main treatment for West Nile Virus is supportive care, which includes anti-inflammatory drugs and intravenous fluids.
“The idea is to keep the horse healthy so it can fight the virus,” Norman said. “The mortality rate for West Nile Virus in horses is about 30 to 40 percent. Many infected horses survive, but many of those will have residual neurological impairment. Not all horses will regain their previous performance levels.”
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Written by Cathy M. Rosenthal