BISMARCK – Last month, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture was notified of four confirmed cases and one suspect case of West Nile virus in horses and one infected sheep. Animals resided in Ramsey, McIntosh, Stark, Grand Forks, Barnes and Nelson counties. All animals showed neurologic signs, none were vaccinated and two of the animals have died.
“Although we’re headed toward fall, mosquito season is still here,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “Horse owners should take extra care to protect their animals.”
“Like many other Midwestern states, we are seeing an increase in West Nile cases,” State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress said. “Horse owners should immediately seek veterinary care for any horse showing incoordination, muscle tremors and fever.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States. The virus typically infects birds, horses and people, but any animal can be infected. Vaccines are available to prevent infection in horses, but there are no vaccines currently approved for people.
In addition to annual vaccines, horse owners should take these extra steps to protect their horses:
- Keep animals indoors during peak periods of mosquito activity
- Install and maintain screens in stall openings
- Use fans in barns to dispel mosquitoes
- Apply species-appropriate insect repellant
- Keep areas around stables and barns free of weeds and manure, and drain areas of standing water
- Clean water tanks and buckets frequently
- Remove debris and containers that can hold water where mosquitoes could breed
For more information about West Nile virus or other reportable animal diseases, visit www.nd.gov/ndda/animal-health-division or contact a local veterinarian.