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WNV-infected horse recovering in St. Croix County

A Quarter Horse mare, the first Wisconsin West Nile Virus (WNV) equine case of the year, is recuperating under veterinary care in St. Croix County. The four-and-a-half-year-old horse was apparently unvaccinated.

A Quarter Horse mare, the first Wisconsin West Nile Virus(WNV) equine case of the year, is recuperating under veterinary care in St. Croix County. The
A Quarter Horse mare, the first Wisconsin West Nile Virus(WNV) equine case of the year, is recuperating under veterinary care in St. Croix County. The American Quarter Horse - Creative Commons Licensing Photo

Badger State veterinarians urge horse owners to have their equines inoculated against WNV and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), two dangerous infections which are most often spread by mosquitoes. West Nile Virus has affected hundreds of horses in the past two decades.

"The cooler, wetter spring delayed a mosquito outbreak in parts of the state, but now that things are heating up it creates the perfect breeding environment for mosquitoes,” explained State Veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Cases of EEE have now emerged in southern states, and now WNV has been detected in a horse in Wisconsin."

So far, Wisconsin has reported one equine case of West Nile Virus, along with one confirmed human case and 20 birds. These cases covered 19 Wisconsin counties.

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What are the symptoms of West Nile Virus in horses?

The most commonly seen equine symptoms include appetite loss, blindness, circling, depression, drooping eyelids, fever, lack of coordination, paralysis, sagging lower lip, twitching, weakness, and more.

In addition to vaccinating horses against West Nile Virus, horse owners may take these prevention steps:

  • Change water in bird baths frequently.
  • Clean rain gutters regularly.
  • Consider placing fly masks and sheets on horses, particularly for turnout.
  • Empty barrels, buckets, troughs, and other unused water receptacles.
  • Keep hot tubs and swimming pools clean.
  • Remove any debris that may collect or retain standing water.
  • Spray horses with insect repellents.

Mosquitoes tend to be extremely active from dusk to dawn, so horse owners may choose to keep equines indoors during those hours to prevent possible bites from WNV-carrying mosquitoes.