As the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has issued a West Nile Virus warning to equine owners, officials with the state’s veterinarian department are encouraging owners to seek vaccinations, which they say have a 100 percent success rate in Kentucky. West Nile was first discovered in New York in 1999 and has since spread across the country. It’s transmitted from mosquitoes that bite infected birds, which can then transmit the virus to horses, humans and other warm-blooded animals.
West Nile causes brain inflammation that may result in neurological problems, said Rusty Ford, the equine program’s manager in the Kentucky veterinarian’s office.
The infection may result in “staggering down, can’t get up, those type of symptoms,” he said.
Ford says in 2002 there were over 500 equine cases of West Nile virus in Kentucky. Vaccines were then made readily available and the number of reported cases dropped to just over 100 the next year.
“Vaccines became widely available. So it went from 513 in 2002, to 102 in 2003, the following year I had eight cases,” he said.
Ford said since 2003 there has not been one horse that has tested positive for the virus that was vaccinated.
There was one report of West Nile from an equine owner last year. The warning comes as the weather has shifted to warm and wet, which encourages mosquitoes, he said.