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Montana: Heavy rains, standing water may increase risk of West Nile Virus

With heavy rain and flooding occurring throughout many parts of the state, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) is reminding horse owners to be on the lookout for West Nile Virus.

“With all the rain we’ve had, we’re likely to see standing water in some parts of the state, and standing water often means mosquitoes,” said MDOL veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanksi. “We want horse owners to be aware of the disease so they can take preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission.”

West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease first isolated in 1937 from the blood of a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda. Since then, WNV has been found in humans, birds and other vertebrates in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia and the Middle East. WNV first appeared in the U.S. in 1999 in New York City and now has nationwide distribution.

Clinical signs of the disease in horses include loss of appetite, depression, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, loss of coordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, hyper-excitability and coma. WNV mimics other serious neurological diseases like sleeping sickness (equine encephalitis) and rabies, and should be immediately reported so that a licensed veterinarian can make a diagnosis.

There is no specific treatment for WNV in horses, although supportive care consistent with standard veterinary practice for animals with a viral infection is recommended. Full recovery from the disease is likely for horses that were vaccinated prior to infection.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that horses be vaccinated against WNV, including annual boosters after the initial vaccination. Please consult your veterinarian to develop an equine health program that includes recommended core vaccines.

Effective mosquito control also decreases the potential for spreading the disease. Watering troughs should be cleaned regularly, and standing water where mosquitoes breed should be managed if possible. A variety of water treatment solutions that kill fly and mosquito larvae but are nontoxic to animals are commercially available. For additional information on controlling mosquitoes to protect livestock, contact Greg Johnson, veterinary entomologist for the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at Montana State University, 406-994-3875.

“Vaccination and mosquito control are the two best defenses for horse owners,” Szymanski said.

WNV was first found in Montana in 2002. The disease has broad distribution in Montana, having been found in 34 counties. Awareness of the disease and the development of an effective vaccine has reduced the incidence of WNV in the state and across the country.

West Nile Virus is a reportable disease. Any confirmed or suspected case should be immediately reported to the Montana state veterinarian at 406-444-2043 and/or USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services 406-449-2220.

For additional information on WNV, please see:

• USDA-APHIS: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/wnv/index.htm

• U.S Geological Survey: http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/wnv_us_human.html

• Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factsheet.htm.

With heavy rain and flooding occurring throughout many parts of the state, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) is reminding horse owners to be on the lookout for West Nile Virus.

“With all the rain we’ve had, we’re likely to see standing water in some parts of the state, and standing water often means mosquitoes,” said MDOL veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanksi. “We want horse owners to be aware of the disease so they can take preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission.”

West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease first isolated in 1937 from the blood of a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda. Since then, WNV has been found in humans, birds and other vertebrates in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia and the Middle East. WNV first appeared in the U.S. in 1999 in New York City and now has nationwide distribution.

Clinical signs of the disease in horses include loss of appetite, depression, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, loss of coordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, hyper-excitability and coma. WNV mimics other serious neurological diseases like sleeping sickness (equine encephalitis) and rabies, and should be immediately reported so that a licensed veterinarian can make a diagnosis.

There is no specific treatment for WNV in horses, although supportive care consistent with standard veterinary practice for animals with a viral infection is recommended. Full recovery from the disease is likely for horses that were vaccinated prior to infection.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that horses be vaccinated against WNV, including annual boosters after the initial vaccination. Please consult your veterinarian to develop an equine health program that includes recommended core vaccines.

Effective mosquito control also decreases the potential for spreading the disease. Watering troughs should be cleaned regularly, and standing water where mosquitoes breed should be managed if possible. A variety of water treatment solutions that kill fly and mosquito larvae but are nontoxic to animals are commercially available. For additional information on controlling mosquitoes to protect livestock, contact Greg Johnson, veterinary entomologist for the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at Montana State University, 406-994-3875.

“Vaccination and mosquito control are the two best defenses for horse owners,” Szymanski said.

WNV was first found in Montana in 2002. The disease has broad distribution in Montana, having been found in 34 counties. Awareness of the disease and the development of an effective vaccine has reduced the incidence of WNV in the state and across the country.

West Nile Virus is a reportable disease. Any confirmed or suspected case should be immediately reported to the Montana state veterinarian at 406-444-2043 and/or USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services 406-449-2220.

For additional information on WNV, please see:

• USDA-APHIS: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/wnv/index.htm

• U.S Geological Survey: http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/wnv_us_human.html

• Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factsheet.htm.

With heavy rain and flooding occurring throughout many parts of the state, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) is reminding horse owners to be on the lookout for West Nile Virus.

“With all the rain we’ve had, we’re likely to see standing water in some parts of the state, and standing water often means mosquitoes,” said MDOL veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanksi. “We want horse owners to be aware of the disease so they can take preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission.”

West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease first isolated in 1937 from the blood of a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda. Since then, WNV has been found in humans, birds and other vertebrates in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia and the Middle East. WNV first appeared in the U.S. in 1999 in New York City and now has nationwide distribution.

Clinical signs of the disease in horses include loss of appetite, depression, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, loss of coordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, hyper-excitability and coma. WNV mimics other serious neurological diseases like sleeping sickness (equine encephalitis) and rabies, and should be immediately reported so that a licensed veterinarian can make a diagnosis.

There is no specific treatment for WNV in horses, although supportive care consistent with standard veterinary practice for animals with a viral infection is recommended. Full recovery from the disease is likely for horses that were vaccinated prior to infection.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that horses be vaccinated against WNV, including annual boosters after the initial vaccination. Please consult your veterinarian to develop an equine health program that includes recommended core vaccines.

Effective mosquito control also decreases the potential for spreading the disease. Watering troughs should be cleaned regularly, and standing water where mosquitoes breed should be managed if possible. A variety of water treatment solutions that kill fly and mosquito larvae but are nontoxic to animals are commercially available. For additional information on controlling mosquitoes to protect livestock, contact Greg Johnson, veterinary entomologist for the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at Montana State University, 406-994-3875.

“Vaccination and mosquito control are the two best defenses for horse owners,” Szymanski said.

WNV was first found in Montana in 2002. The disease has broad distribution in Montana, having been found in 34 counties. Awareness of the disease and the development of an effective vaccine has reduced the incidence of WNV in the state and across the country.

West Nile Virus is a reportable disease. Any confirmed or suspected case should be immediately reported to the Montana state veterinarian at 406-444-2043 and/or USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services 406-449-2220.

For additional information on WNV, please see:

• USDA-APHIS: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine/wnv/index.htm

• U.S Geological Survey: http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/wnv_us_human.html

• Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/wnv_factsheet.htm.


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