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Equine West Nile Virus Protection

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the West Nile virus has attributed to horse deaths in the USA. Just like humans, horses become infected with the virus by a bite from a mosquito that is infected with the virus. Though most horses infected with the virus do recover with little incident, the virus can multiply into the blood system leading to central nervous system maladies that could prove fatal in rare cases. While a West Nile virus vaccine for horses has recently been approved, its effectiveness is not proven.  Prevention is still the most important method in protecting your horse from the west nile virus.

Reducing your horse's exposure to mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus is the key preventative measure. Reducing the risk involves eliminating mosquito-breeding sites to control the number of hatching mosquitoes, and to reduce exposure to adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so reduction of breeding sites involves eliminating stagnant water sources. To reduce the number of mosquito breeding sites follow these steps:

  1. Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, buckets, ceramic pots or other unwanted containers.

  2. Pay attention to discarded tires. Tires are important mosquito breeding sites.
    Clean clogged roof gutters. Millions of mosquitoes can breed in water trapped in roof gutters each season.

  3. Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use. Empty and refill outdoor water troughs or buckets every few days.

  4. Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.

  5. Eliminate standing water on your property, especially near manure storage areas. Mosquitoes may breed in puddles that last for more than four days

  6. Use products containing the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural way to control mosquitoes. Add them to ponds, stock tanks, or other areas where standing water is unavoidable.

  7. Additionally, since the West Nile virus spreads between infected birds and the mosquitoes biting them, be on the watch for dead birds near your horse's living quarters. Dead birds should be removed with care, always wear gloved hands and dispose of the bird in a garbage bag. Contact your local or state health department for specific procedures for handling and reporting dead birds; they may want to collect the birds for testing.

Note: Never use insect repellent sprays intended for humans and containing DEET on horses or other animals. These could be fatal for the animal. Only use mosquito repellent sprays meant specifically for horses.

Is your horse infected with the West Nile virus?

Though these symptoms are not exclusive to the West Nile virus, horses infected with the West Nile virus tend to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weakness in the hind limbs

  • Lack of coordination and stumbling

  • Falling down

  • Apprehension

  • Muscle twitching

  • Teeth grinding

  • Hypersensitivity

  • Excessive sweating

  • Convulsions

  • Paralysis


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