Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

WNV - Utah Horse Owners Advised to Take Precautions

West Nile Virus Season is Here
Utah Horse Owners Advised to Take Precautions

SALT LAKE CITY (June 30, 2016) – Due to the annual rise in temperatures and mosquito populations, Utah horse owners are being advised to vaccinate their horses in order to protect them from the West Nile virus (WNV). Data shows that 80 percent of cases in horses occur during the months of August and September. WNV is spread by mosquitos, and can affect both humans and animals.

     “WNV is a reportable disease and is part of our statewide information and alert system designed to protect animal and human health,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Barry Pittman.  “Our Animal Health Program is part of a regional and national notification system designed to prevent the spread of diseases that affect livestock and the human population.  Any equine with WNV would be prevented from traveling across state lines,” he added.   

     Mosquito monitoring for WNV continues throughout the state and is ongoing throughout peak months. To date, no human or animal cases of West Nile Virus have been reported.  

     Laboratory test results confirm the presence of WNV mosquitoes in the Vernal, Utah area.   A monitoring and collection system designed to detect the presence of WNV mosquitoes reported two positive findings in the Uintah Basin district.

     The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is strongly advising horse owners in Utah to protect their animals by vaccinating them for the West Nile Virus. Because vaccines take several weeks to become effective, horse owners are advised to vaccinate their animals as early as possible. Equine vaccine requires two doses, two weeks apart, and takes approximately five weeks to offer full protection. Once animals are initially vaccinated, yearly booster shots are necessary.

     Horse owners can further protect their animals by applying approved repellants to the animals, by controlling mosquitoes, and eliminating mosquito-breeding areas.  Horse owners may also put their animals in a barn or other enclosed structures during high mosquito activity times (evenings and morning hours).

    Horse, mule, and burro owners are advised to check with their veterinarian to assure that their vaccination status is current. The WNV vaccine is available from local veterinarians, and has proven effective when administered correctly.   

     The most common sign of West Nile virus in horses is weakness, usually in the hindquarters. Weakness may be indicated by a widened stance, stumbling, leaning to one side and toe dragging. In extreme cases, paralysis may follow with the horse unable to stand, leading to humane euthanasia.  Fever is sometimes evident, as are depression and fearfulness. WNV causes encephalitis and affects the central nervous system.

     Statistically, 1-in-3 horses that show signs of the illness will die, and horse owners who suspect should contact their veterinarian immediately. Prevention is more effective, economical and humane.

     If you have questions concerning your health or believe you may have contracted West Nile virus, please contact your physician immediately.

For more information about the West Nile virus, please visit the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s website at: www.ag.utah.gov, or the Utah Department of Health’s website: www.health.utah.gov.    

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Larry Lewis (801) 538-7104
Cell (801) 514-2152
Dr. Barry Pittman State Veterinarian
(801) 538-7162







posted June 30, 2016