Vermont Horse Tests Positive for West Nile Virus


DATE: July 22, 2005

CONTACT: Mark Bosma
VT Agency of Agriculture

VT Department of Health
Communication Office

MONTPELIER - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has recently identified a case of West Nile virus in a horse in Orange County. This is the first such case of the disease in a Vermont horse since 2003.

The disease was detected in a 9-year-old paint gelding. The horse is recovering from the virus.

West Nile virus is transmitted from the bite of an infected mosquito to horses, and humans as well. Horses are affected by the virus more often than other domestic animals. Many horses infected with the virus will not become ill, but of horses that do become ill, about one-third die or need to be euthanatized. West Nile virus does not spread from horse to horse, or from horses to humans.

“This is never a discovery we want to make,” Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr said. “However, I hope it can act as a reminder that West Nile virus is in Vermont, and horse owners should use caution by vaccinating their horses, including annual boosters, to prevent the disease.”

Horse owners can protect their animals against mosquito bites by using insect repellents and installing fans in horse stalls. They should also reduce standing water around their barns where mosquitoes can breed.

“This equine case indicates that animal-biting mosquito species are infected with the virus,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Cort Lohff. The Department of Health is urging Vermonters to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, or avoiding outdoor activities when mosquitoes are active. Vermonters should also reduce the mosquito breeding habitat around their homes by getting rid of standing water.

West Nile virus tracking in Vermont is jointly coordinated by the Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Department of Health. As part of this tracking program, the state tests dead birds, traps and tests mosquitoes, and tests people and horses that have symptoms consistent with the virus.

For more information about West Nile virus and animals, contact State Veterinarian Dr. Kerry Rood at the Agency of Agriculture at 802-828-2421. For information on West Nile virus and humans call the Vermont Department of Health at 1-800-640-4374 (VT only), 1-802-863-7240, or check the website at