Windham County Horse Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

News Release

For Immediate Release: September 11, 2018

Media Contacts:
Ben Truman, Vermont Department of Health
bennett.truman@vermont.gov 802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281

Scott Waterman,Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
scott.waterman@vermont.gov 802-622-4662

 

Windham County Horse Tests Positive for West Nile Virus
Mosquito bite prevention is key to protecting both humans and animals

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health was notified last week that a horse in Windham County tested positive for West Nile virus. The horse had not been vaccinated against the virus and has since died from the infection. Testing was conducted as part of a Health Department and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets program that provides free mosquito-borne disease testing of susceptible animal species. There have been no reported cases of West Nile virus among humans in Vermont this year.

“This unfortunate incident highlights just how important it is to protect Vermont horses from West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases,” said State Veterinarian Kristin Haas, DVM, of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. “Horse owners need to work with their veterinarians to make sure their animals are appropriately vaccinated for West Nile virus.”

West Nile virus is spread when an infected mosquito bites a human or an animal. The virus cannot be transmitted directly between animals and humans. Most people who are infected do not become sick, but approximately 20 percent develop flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, West Nile virus can be more serious and even fatal. Symptoms can include high fever, disorientation, coma, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Health officials said that the animal exposure is another indicator of how widespread the risk of disease is in Vermont. The state’s mosquito surveillance has found West Nile virus in all areas of Vermont. “While we haven’t seen any human cases of West Nile virus this year, animal cases like this are cause for concern because it means mosquitoes carrying the virus are out there, and they’re biting,” said Natalie Kwit, DVM, state public health veterinarian with the Department of Health.

Kwit said the risk of getting West Nile virus is highest right now and continues until the first hard frost of the year. “We have some time to go before we get that hard frost, and until then it is peak season for risk of illness,” said Kwit. “Prevention is key to keeping safe against West Nile virus, and we encourage all Vermonters to know how to protect themselves.”

Take these simple steps to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
  • Use permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents.
  • Cover baby strollers or outdoor playpens with mosquito netting.
  • Fix holes in your screens.
  • Drain areas with standing water where mosquitoes can breed, like old tires, flowerpots, wading pools and rain gutters.

Learn more about mosquitoes, bite prevention and West Nile virus:
healthvermont.gov/mosquito 
agriculture.vermont.gov/plant_pest/mosquitoes_ticks/mosquitoes

For more information about the joint Health and Agriculture arbovirus testing program:
agriculture.vermont.gov/animal_health/veterinarians/arboviruses   

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