Horses should be vaccinated for West Nile

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Vanessa Serna is one of 13 candidates hoping to be named 2012-13 Miss Sunnyside on Saturday, Sept. 15. She wants to organize a field day for the community as her community service project.

West Nile virus is still a threat and Washington's state veterinarian wants to ensure horse owners take precautions, including getting vaccinations or booster shots for their horses.

"While the best time may be to get your horses vaccinated in the spring, mosquitoes favor long stretches of warm weather," said Dr. Leonard Eldridge. "Now would be a good time to act as our neighboring states just this week reported equine cases of West Nile virus."

Although no cases of equine West Nile virus have been reported for the past two years in Washington, August and September are the most vulnerable months and will remain a risk until there is a frost, according to Eldridge.

In early August, the state Department of Health was notified by the Benton County Mosquito Control District of a mosquito sample that tested positive for West Nile virus in Yakima County. More samples have tested positive since then.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on an infected wild bird. The disease can sicken people, horses, many types of birds and other animals. Infected horses do not spread the disease to other horses or animals.

Eldridge said that the majority of West Nile virus cases in horses are preventable with vaccination.

Infected horses that become ill show a loss of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness and muscle weakness, particularly in the hindquarters.

"I urge horse owners to consult with their private veterinarian for recommendations on a complete immunization and animal health program," Eldridge said. Eldridge also recommends that horse owners take measures to reduce mosquito populations.

Veterinarians who learn of potential West Nile virus cases in horses or other animals should contact the State Veterinarian's Office at (360) 902-1881.

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