West Nile virus is becoming increasingly more threatening as the season progresses. Every state in the continental U.S. has reported West Nile virus activity this year. To date, just over 2000 human cases and 87 deaths have been reported, with half of those numbers coming in the last 3 weeks alone. This is the largest number of disease cases ever reported in the U.S. at this point in the season.
People and horses acquire West Nile virus from the same source – the mosquito. Because there is not a preventative vaccine for people, the best way for us to avoid disease is to prevent mosquito bites. Many insect repellents and insecticide sprays are quite effective in keeping mosquitoes at bay. For horses, the greatest insurance against West Nile comes from vaccination. Horses can acquire significant protection when vaccinated with an equine West Nile vaccine each year. Refer to our West Nile Virus vaccine chart to review the options.
What to watch for – The symptoms of West Nile virus are similar, whether infecting people or horses. Infections target the central nervous system. Early signs include fever, depression, stiffness, muscle twitching, hypersensitivity to stimulus, and loss of appetite. As it progresses, muscle weakness, stupor and paralysis may develop. Inattention, daydreaming or staring off into space should be monitored, as this may reflect a change in mental status. Symptoms may persist for days or weeks, and some neurological effects may be permanent. Like most illnesses, the benefits of prevention are worth the effort. Stay safe! Lori H.
*The CDC map shows the distribution of WNV activity (shaded in light green), human infections (dark green circles), and presumptive viremic blood donors (dark green triangles) occurring during 2012 by state. If West Nile virus infection is reported from any area of a state, that entire state is shaded. http://www.cdc.gov/