Horse in Suffolk tests positive for West Nile Virus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Staff report

The first horse testing positive for West Nile Virus Encephalitis in the Western Tidewater Health District has been reported in the Suffolk.

According to a press release from the health district, the horse, a 19-year-old male, was kept in the 800 block of Cypress Chapel Road. The horse had not been vaccinated and has fully recovered.

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WNV can produce severe diseases in horses, the press release stated. Because horses are outdoors and attract hordes of biting mosquitoes, they are at high risk. Typical symptoms in horses include staggering, circling, depression, loss of appetite and sometimes fever.

Unlike Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), horses usually recover from WNV. Generally both WNV and EEE can be prevented through vaccination.

Health district officials advise horse owners to vaccinate animals every six to 12 months against the disease. Vaccination includes initial shot, with a booster six weeks later, then boosters every six to 12 months. Vaccinations must be administered correctly and in a timely fashion to be effective. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian for further information. There is no effective vaccination for humans.

The viruses are spread to birds, humans and other mammals through the bite of an infected mosquito. Arboviral infections can be prevented by controlling mosquito population and protecting against mosquito bites.

Wear long, loose and light-colored clothing;

If possible, stay indoors when mosquitoes are biting;

Check window and door screens to ensure that mosquitoes don’t enter the home;

Use insect repellent products with no more than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children under 12;

Turn over or remove containers in your yard where water collects, such as old tires, potted plant trays, buckets and toys;

Eliminate standing water on tarps or flat roofs;

Clean out birdbaths and wading pools once a week;

Clean roof gutters and downspout screens;

Larvicidal briquettes are available from the department of public works;

Remove animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn.