In late August, the Ohio Department of Agriculture confirmed the first positive cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Ohio horses for 2018. Two cases in Northeast Ohio have been confirmed and the animals had not been vaccinated. The spread of WNV in horses is preventable with proper vaccination and horse owners are urged to ensure their animal’s vaccine and boosters are up to date.
West Nile Virus is transmitted to horses via bites from infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs for WNV include flu-like symptoms, where the horse seems mildly anorexic and depressed. Changes in mentality, drowsiness, driving or pushing forward (often without control) and asymmetrical weakness may be observed. Mortality rate from WNV can be as high as 30 to 40% in horses. Infection with WNV does not always lead to signs of illness in people or animals. WNV is endemic in the United States and Ohio has reported positive cases in horses each of the last few years. There were 14 confirmed cases of WNV in Ohio in 2017.
“My message to horse owners is simple: vaccinate your animals and you can protect against West Nile Virus,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey. “Vaccines are a proven and effective prevention tool and I encourage all owners to talk to their veterinarian to learn how they can easily keep their animals healthy.”
In addition to vaccinations, horse owners should work to reduce the mosquito population and eliminate possible breeding areas. Recommendations include: removing stagnant water sources; keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening; and using mosquito repellents.