Vets urge testing horses for West Nile virus
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.”
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.