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Owners encouraged to protect animals from West Nile virus

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Posted at 12:53 PM, Jun 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-18 13:53:47-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With record flooding and heavy rain, there's a lot more standing water around...a breeding ground for mosquitoes. With that in mind, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is urging people to get their animals vaccinated to protect them from the West Nile Virus (WNV).

The NDA says they are encouraging horse owners to visit veterinarians to find out about vaccinating their animals against the WNV.

“All of this precipitation around the state will likely mean higher levels of mosquito activity,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes. “Higher numbers of mosquitoes don’t always correlate with higher incidence of disease, but it’s a possibility that we can prepare for.”

Hughes says Nebraska typically sees more cases of WNV in horses during the month of August and that "mosquito season often runs through October." He says now is the time to get horses vaccinated.

“The vaccine to prevent West Nile Virus in horses is highly effective and should be administered at least three weeks prior to exposure to mosquitoes carrying WNV,” said Hughes. “Vaccination helps prevent horses from contracting the virus, and if they do get it, improve their chances of survival.”

The NDA says there are things owners can do to to reduce risk of horses beyond the vaccine:

  • Remove mosquito breeding points by eliminating any pools of standing water
  • If possible, animals also should be moved indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
  • Avoid turning on lights inside the stable during evening and overnight
  • Remove birds that are in, or close to, the stable; and use mosquito repellants

The NDA provided these symptoms of WNV in horses:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Lethargy/drowsiness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Lack of coordination
  • Weakness of the limbs or partial paralysis

If you suspect a case of WNV, you can report it by telling a local veterinarian, calling the NDA at (402) 471-2351 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS/Veterinary Services at (402) 434-2300.

For more information about WNV, visit http://www.nda.nebraska.gov/