Utah horse owners urged to vaccinate against West Nile Virus

Electron microscopy of West Nile virus.
Electron microscopy of West Nile virus.

Agriculture authorities in Utah are urging horse owners to inoculate their horses against West Nile Virus as the height of the mosquito season approaches.

Veterinarians in Colorado have reported the first confirmed case of West Nile Virus in a horse and, in Utah, mosquitos carrying the West Nile Virus have been discovered in stagnant bodies of water in Box Elder, Uintah and Washtington counties.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food wants horses owner to vaccinate their animals. It says they can protect also protect their animals by applying approved repellants to the animals and by controlling mosquitoes and mosquito breeding areas.

Horse owners may also protect the animals by putting them in the barn or other enclosed structures.

The vaccine is available from local veterinarians.

No human, or animal cases of West Nile Virus have so far been reported this year by the department in Utah.

The most common sign of West Nile virus in horses is weakness, usually in the hindquarters. Weakness may be indicated by a widened stance, stumbling, leaning to one side and toe dragging. In extreme cases, paralysis may follow. Fever is sometimes evident, as are depression and fearfulness. The virus causes encephalitis and affects the central nervous system.

Horse owners who suspect West Nile viral infection of their animal should contact their veterinarian immediately. About one-third of horses that show signs of the illness will die. Eighty percent of WNV in horses occurs in the months of August and September.

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