DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged horse owners to protect their animals from the West Nile virus by making sure their horses are vaccinated and that the vaccination is up-to-date. The first year of vaccination requires two vaccinations to be protective for horses and then annual boosters in following years.
“As we enter mosquito season it is important for horse owners to vaccinate their animals so that they are protected from West Nile virus,” Northey said. “I encourage owners to talk to their veterinarian about vaccination and make sure all their animals’ vaccinations are up-to-date.”
In 2012 Iowa had 36 confirmed West Nile virus cases in horses last year and in most cases the animals had not had any vaccinations and in a few of these cases only had their first dose of vaccine. Iowa had only one confirmed case in a horse in 2011.
West Nile virus has been in the U.S. since 1999, and while it is primarily a disease of birds it can infect horses, dogs, humans, and several other animal species.
It is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Most animals and humans do not show clinical signs of being infected, but horses may develop a brain infection with signs such as lethargy, weakness, incoordination/staggering, paralysis or even death.
Horse owners are encouraged to contact their veterinarian for more information and to discuss vaccination and other preventions measures, such as mosquito control.