Vaccinations important in the prevention of West Nile Virus in horses

A horse in Russell County is the first to test positive in Virginia in 2013

POSTED: 06:47 AM EST Dec 24, 2013    UPDATED: 10:09 PM EDT Sep 12, 2013 

Horse owners take note. The state has seen its first case of West Nile Virus this year in far southwest Virginia.

The affected horse recently moved to Russell County from another state, but experts say that doesn't eliminate the concern.

West Nile Virus is more common in the eastern part of the state, and other areas with a longer mosquito season, but equine specialists at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine say annual vaccinations are important.

Julie Settlage is the Section Chief for Large Animal Medicine & Surgery at the vet school. "If a horse is not properly vaccinated and it gets bitten by an infected mosquito," Settlage said, "then they are likely to come down with West Nile Virus, which causes neurologic disease. They get wobbly behind, sweat profusely. They also can have some shakiness in their heads and necks, and they can die, so vaccines are a very cheap way to buy some insurance to prevent West Nile Virus."

Settlage says mosquito control is also important. She says cleaning water buckets daily and eliminating standing water can limit the areas where mosquitoes reproduce.