The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry is encouraging horse owners to take precautions and vaccinate their animals to protect against the West Nile virus. In Oklahoma this year, three horses have been positively diagnosed as infected with WNV. The bird population serves as the reservoir for the virus, and it is then spread by mosquitos to horses and humans.
The mosquitos most likely to transmit West Nile virus lay eggs in small pools of standing water. Adult mosquitoes can hatch in 10 days in the warmest months of the summer. Mosquitoes become infected and transmit West Nile virus after feeding on birds carrying the virus.
Within 10 to 14 days, the mosquito can transmit the virus to both humans and horses.
“Signs of West Nile Virus include weakness, fever, incoordination, seizures, blindness and difficulty getting up,” Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin said.
“There are several vaccines available, and we are encouraging horse owners to visit with their veterinarian and determine the vaccination protocol that will best fit their situation.”
Oklahomans can reduce the risk of West Nile virus by eliminating places where mosquitos breed, such as standing water. Horse owners should not let water stagnate in birdbaths or water tanks and should turn over wheelbarrows when not in use. When possible, owners should reduce horses’ outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk, the times of day when mosquitos that transmit the West Nile virus are most active.