Cases of West Nile confirmed in horses in Nevada and Kansas

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Electron microscopy of West Nile virus. Photo: PhD Dre CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Electron microscopy of West Nile virus. Photo: PhD Dre CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Three horses in western Nevada have tested positive for West Nile Virus in the last fortnight, the state’s agriculture department reports.

All three horses were not vaccinated.

The department’s state veterinarian, JJ Goicoechea, urged horse owners to vaccinate against the mosquito-borne virus.

“Vaccination is the best protection horse owners have for their animals,” Goicoechea said. “With the increased numbers of mosquitoes this year, it’s important all horse owners take this precaution to prevent the spread of disease.”

Diseases like West Nile are transmitted to humans primarily through the bites of infected mosquitoes, ticks, sand flies or midges.

Every year, the Nevada Department of Agriculture closely monitors several such diseases to protect public health and safety and the agriculture industry.

In addition to West Nile, the department’s Animal Disease Laboratory tests for two other prevalent arboviral diseases: Saint Louis Encephalitis Virus and Western Equine Encephalitis Virus.

Although these diseases cannot be transmitted from a horse, all three can cause severe illness and death both in horses and humans.

“Vaccinations, in conjunction with practices that reduce exposure to mosquitos, are very effective in protecting horses from West Nile Virus,” Goicoechea said. “It’s not too late to prevent the spread of disease.”

West Nile has been prevalent in Nevada since 2004 while the viruses that cause Saint Louis Encephalitis and Western Equine Encephalitis have been widespread in the western US for decades.

Since the Aedes aegypti mosquito has been found in southern Nevada this year, the laboratory also monitors and tests for Zika Virus.

Nevada residents are being urged to take precautions such as eliminating mosquito-breeding sites around houses and barns, using insect repellents to fight the bite and keeping horses vaccinated against the three diseases.

Meanwhile, Kansas has confirmed its first case of West Nile in a horse in 2017.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health said the case was in Reno County.

The horse was euthanized due the severity of the illness.

The department similarly urged owners to vaccinate their horses.

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