News Releases, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
June 22, 2012

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Contact: Chris Beuoy

Horses Need Protection from West Nile Virus

Earlier this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that a crow collected in Champaign County tested positive for West Nile virus, the first evidence of the virus in central Illinois this year. The virus had previously been detected in mosquitoes and birds in DuPage and Cook counties in May.

The news serves as a timely reminder for horse owners to check that their horses have been vaccinated.

"Any horse that has not been vaccinated yet this year should receive a booster," says Dr. Scott Austin, an equine veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.

West Nile virus, which is transmitted to horses through the bite of an infected mosquito, causes an encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. It damages the brain and the spinal cord, leading to neurological signs in infected horses such as tremors, circling, difficulty walking, unusual stance, and muscle twitching.

There is no cure or specific treatment for horses diagnosed with a West Nile virus infection; infected horses are given supportive care. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, about one in three horses exhibiting clinical signs of West Nile virus infection will die from the disease.

West Nile vaccination is therefore recommended as a core vaccine in all states where the virus has been detected.