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Haldimand horse tests positive for West Nile virus

SIMCOE, SEPTEMBER 27, 2012- Tests have revealed that a recently deceased Fisherville area horse was infected with the West Nile virus.

The horse, which passed away earlier this month, had not been vaccinated against the virus. Some of the other horses on the property were also unvaccinated against West Nile. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reminding horse owners about the importance of vaccinating all of their equine against the West Nile virus.

“There is concern that some horse owners have become complacent regarding West Nile vaccinations because of the virus’s decreased activity in the past years,” noted Kris Lutzi, the Sr. Public Health Inspector with the Health Unit. “Considering the virus has been endemic to Ontario for a number of years now, everyone should be taking preventative measures at all times, whether or not activity is high in their area. It only takes one infected mosquito to cause an infection.”

Ontario has had more reported cases of West Nile virus this year than in any year since 2002. While birds are the most common animal infected with West Nile, large land mammals, particularly horses, are also susceptible to the virus. The source of infection for horses is the same as the source for most people who become infected – the bite of an infected mosquito.

Some horses infected with the virus may show no signs of illness, while others may display symptoms such as stumbling, weakness in hind limbs, an inability to stand, listlessness and head shaking. In severe cases the animals may die or need to be euthanized.

Further investigation into the death of the horse ruled out the possibility that the case was travel-related, which should provide additional motivation for local residents to take precautions when outdoors.

“When an infected animal is reported in an area it means there are likely infected mosquitoes nearby as well,” added Lutzi. “People should also be taking action to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes.”

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is advising horse owners to protect their animals by taking the following precautions:

  • Ensure your horse’s West Nile virus vaccination is up-to-date.
  • Reduce standing water sites on your property (e.g. install aerators or any method that creates water surface movement in ponds, empty rain barrels or cover them with a screen).
  • If possible, avoid placing horses outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.· Avoid riding horses or placing horses in areas that are favourable mosquito habitats (e.g. low wet pastures or bush areas).
  • Ensure that your barn has tight-fitting screens over the windows and doors.
  • Use yellow incandescent lights or fluorescent lights in the barn as these are considered less attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Hire a licensed pest management company to properly assess your property and safely apply pesticides to control mosquitoes.
  • Carefully apply appropriate insecticides to horses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

People who suspect that horses, other animals or pets have become infected with West Nile virus should contact a veterinarian for information and advice.

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Media contact:
Kris Lutzi
Sr. Public Health Inspector, Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3261 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
[email protected]