West Nile virus has been headlining the news this month. We're in the midst of the largest outbreak ever seen in the United States. So far this year, just over 1000 human cases have been reported, resulting in 41 deaths. Previous years have averaged less than 300 human cases at this point in the season. This is especially frightening because we are so early in the season. West Nile Virus typically peaks later in September.
Because people and horses acquire the disease from the same source of origin, the mosquito, there is great cause for concern in the equine population. As of August 14th, 77 cases of equine West Nile Virus had been reported this year. All of year 2011 accounted for 87 equine cases.
What to watch for in horses: West Nile Virus infects the central nervous system. Early signs include fever, depression, muscle twitching, hypersensitivity to stimulus, and loss of appetite. As it progresses, staggering gait and paralysis may develop. Inattention, daydreaming or staring off into space should be monitored, as this may reflect a change in mental status.
Vaccinating with an equine West Nile vaccine has been proven to have a significant impact in preventing the disease. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends vaccinating all foals and horses against West Nile Virus. If your horse has never been vaccinated for West Nile Virus, you will need to give two doses, a few weeks apart (according to the label directions). The next year and every year after, you should follow up with a one dose booster shot to maintain immunity from the disease.
There are a number of equine West Nile vaccines to choose from. Some are specific to West Nile Virus only, while others combine it with protection against other diseases. Refer to our West Nile Virus vaccine chart for a simplified view of the options.
Stay safe, Lori H
West Nile Virus Vaccines:
EquiNile West Nile Virus Vaccine
Prestige V + WNV Havlogen
Recombitek West Nile Vaccine
Recombitek rWNV-EW West Nile Virus Vaccine
Recombitek rWNV EWT West Nile Virus Vaccine
West Nile Innovator
West Nile Innovator + EWT
West Nile Innovator + VEWT