Vets urge test­ing horses for West Nile virus

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - NEWS - By Jim Shay and John Burge­son

Horses get West Nile virus, too.

In Green­wich, a 25-yearold minia­ture horse is re­cov­er­ing this week af­ter it started walk­ing strangely last month and later tested pos­i­tive.

An 18-year-old horse from Glas­ton­bury wasn’t as lucky. The state De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture said that an­i­mal kept get­ting worse af­ter it con­tracted West Nile, and it ended up be­ing eu­th­a­nized.

Those were the first do­mes­tic an­i­mal cases of West Nile virus in­fec­tion re­ported this year in Con­necti­cut. Mean­while, on Thurs­day the state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health de­tailed five new hu­man cases, in Stam­ford, Nor­walk, Dan­bury, West­brook and Thomp­son.

Con­necti­cut’s to­tal for hu­man cases of the mos­quito-borne virus stands at 15 for the sea­son, with no fa­tal­i­ties so far.

Dr. Mary Jane Lis, state vet­eri­nar­ian for the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, said horses are the do­mes­tic an­i­mals most sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tion with the virus.

But while there is no West Nile vac­cine for hu­mans, there is one for horses — has been since 2001. It’s avail­able through li­censed vet­eri­nar­i­ans.

“All of the horses that we have here have been vac­ci­nated for West Nile,” said Bobbi Car­leton, who runs Weatogue Sta­bles in Sal­is­bury. “It doesn’t com­pletely pre­vent the dis­ease, but it makes it much less likely that they’ll get it, and if they do, it’ll be a much less se­vere case.”

Simsbury vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Thor Hyyppa also rec­om­mended the vac­cine.

“It’s a very sim­ple step that horse own­ers can take to en­sure the health of their an­i­mals,” he said. “The risk of a com­pli­ca­tion is ex­tremely low and the ben­e­fits are great.”

The cost of the treat­ment is about $40 to $50, vet­eri­nar­i­ans say.

In late Au­gust, the Green­wich mini horse had an ab­nor­mal gait. The Glas­ton­bury horse was ob­served by its owner be­ing lethar­gic and not eat­ing. Di­ag­nos­tic sam­ples showed West Nile in­fec­tion.

Both horses had no re­cent his­tory of a West Nile virus vac­ci­na­tion or travel. Car­leton said that although most horse events to­day, such as dres­sage meets, re­quire cer­tain vac­ci­na­tions, the WNV vac­cine is not yet manda­tory.

“Horse own­ers should re­view their an­i­mals’ vac­ci­na­tion records with their vet­eri­nar­i­ans to en­sure that WNV and Eastern equine en­cephalomyeli­tis vac­ci­na­tions are cur­rent and their horses are pro­tected dur­ing the mos­quito sea­son” Lis said said in a re­lease.

“Vac­ci­na­tion,” she said, “is the best way to pro­tect your horse.”

As for peo­ple, the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health said warm weather is fore­cast for this week­end, and many Con­necti­cut res­i­dents will be out­doors en­joy­ing the state’s coun­try fairs, fam­ily gath­er­ings, and other events that can run into the early evening, when mos­qui­toes are most ac­tive.

“Please take pre­cau­tions to pre­vent mos­quito bites,” the de­part­ment ad­vised. “WNV in­fec­tion is pre­ventable.”

Chris Mar­quette / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

A minia­ture horse pho­tographed at Bridge­port’s Beard­s­ley Zoo re­cently. The state De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture re­cently an­nounced that a minia­ture Green­wich horse and one from Glas­ton­bury were the first do­mes­tic an­i­mal cases of West Nile virus in­fec­tion this year.

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