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Virginia horse tests positive for West Nile Virus

Pony had not been vaccinated

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has announced the state’s first positive case of West Nile Virus in a horse this year. The nine-year-old pony mare from Fauquier County tested positive for WNV at VDACS’ regional animal health laboratory in Warrenton and a USDA lab in Iowa. The horse was not vaccinated for WNV and has recovered. Symptoms included loss of control of bodily movements and partial paralysis in the hind limbs, dazed appearance and lack of ability to stand.

Dr. Joe Garvin, head of VDACS’ Office of Laboratory Services, urges horse owners to check with their veterinarians about vaccinating their animals for WNV.

“West Nile is a mosquito-borne disease,” he said, “and we generally start seeing our first cases in August and September. The disease is usually preventable by vaccination, as is Eastern Equine Encephalitis, so many veterinarians recommend vaccination at least yearly, and in mosquito-prone areas, every six months.”

He added that complete vaccination requires an initial shot, followed by a booster. Full immunity takes about six weeks.

Prevention methods besides vaccination include destroying standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, use of insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn. Continuous, effective mosquito control can minimize the risk of exposure of both horses and humans to mosquito-borne diseases. Equine owners should consult their veterinarians if an animal exhibits any neurological symptoms such as a stumbling gait, going down, facial paralysis, drooping or disinterest in their surroundings.