FAUQUIER COUNTY, Va. — A horse in Fauquier County, Virginia, was the first of the year to test positive in the Commonwealth for West Nile virus.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced the find Wednesday.
VDACS said in the news release that the horse was unvaccinated. The department confirmed the test results at a regional animal health laboratory in Warrenton and a USDA lab in Iowa.
The horse has recovered from falling ill to the virus. Symptoms included loss of control of bodily movements and partial paralysis in the hind limbs, dazed appearance and lack of ability to stand, according to VDACS.
“West Nile is a mosquito-borne disease,” said Dr. Joe Garvin, head of VDACS’ Office of Laboratory Services. He urges horse owners to check with their veterinarians about vaccinating their animals for WNV.
“We generally start seeing our first cases in August and September,” added Garvin. “The disease is usually preventable by vaccination, as is Eastern Equine Encephalitis, so many veterinarians recommend vaccination at least yearly, and in mosquito-prone areas, every six months.”
Garvin also said that complete vaccination requires an initial shot, followed by a booster. Full immunity takes about six weeks.
VDACS said prevention methods besides vaccination include destroying standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, use of insect repellents and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn. Continuous, effective mosquito control can lower the risk of exposure of both horses and humans to mosquito-borne diseases. Equine owners should consult their veterinarians if an animal exhibits any neurological symptoms such as a stumbling gait, going down, facial paralysis, drooping or disinterest in their surroundings.