The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced that nine cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Utah horses this year — and the Utah Department of Health has reported the highest number of West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools ever seen in the state.
According to a news release, there were seven cases in Weber County and one case in Salt Lake and Box Elder counties. Six people and seven birds have also tested positive for the disease.
The virus is carried by mosquitoes and can cause disease in humans, birds, horses and some other mammals. Horses become infected with West Nile through mosquito bites and do not spread the infection to other horses or people, the release states.
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, according to UDOH, but symptoms include headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1% of people infected will develop a serious neurological illness, such as meningitis, the department’s website states.
Signs of the virus in horses include loss of appetite, depression, fever and neurological signs, like stumbling, circling and weakness. In horses, the disease can cause long term neurological problems or even death, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Owners can protect their horses by using insect repellents, fans and screens and by eliminating stagnant water sources where mosquitoes breed. Horse owners who suspect West Nile virus should contact their veterinarian immediately.
“Vaccines against West Nile virus and other neurologic diseases are readily available from your veterinarian,” wrote Dr. Dean Taylor, Utah State Veterinarian, in the release. “Every owner should discuss vaccinations with their veterinarian in the spring before mosquito season.”long-term