Michigan Confirms First Equine WNV Case for 2016

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Michigan Confirms First Equine WNV Case for 2016

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development received confirmation of the state’s first equine West Nile virus (WNV) case of the year on Oct. 10.

“The affected horse is a 5-month-old filly in Calhoun County,” the department said in a statement on its website. “On Oct. 2, the filly began to develop signs of illness, including stumbling and lethargy. The unvaccinated filly is responding to treatment. The dam was vaccinated against WNV two weeks after foaling, and the filly is not yet weaned.”

West Nile is transmitted to horses via bites from infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs for WNV include flulike signs, where the horse seems mildly anorexic and depressed; fine and coarse muscle and skin fasciculations (twitching); hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to touch and sound); changes in mentation (mentality), when horses look like they are daydreaming or "just not with it"; occasional somnolence (drowsiness); propulsive walking (driving or pushing forward, often without control); and "spinal" signs, including asymmetrical weakness. Some horses show asymmetrical or symmetrical ataxia. Equine mortality rate can be as high as 30-40%.

Horse owners should also consult their private practicing veterinarian to determine an appropriate disease prevention plan for their horses. Vaccines have proven to be a very effective prevention tool. Horses that have been vaccinated in past years will need an annual booster shot. However, if an owner did not vaccinate their animal in previous years, the horse will need the two-shot vaccination series within a three- to six-week period.

Health Alert: West Nile Virus

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends that foals born to vaccinated mares receive the first dose in the three-shot series at 4 to 6 months of age and foals of unvaccinated mares receive the first dose at 3 to 4 months of age.

“Primary vaccination series scheduling may be amended with vaccinations administered to younger foals that are at increased risk of exposure due to the presence of vectors,” the AAEP says in its Foal Vaccination Guidelines. “A foal born during the vector season may warrant initiation of the primary vaccination series at an earlier age than a foal born prior to the vector season.”

It’s advisable to work with a veterinarian to determine the best vaccination plan for foals.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing stagnant water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents.

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