Health & Medicine

West Nile risk rising for horses in Camp Fire burn area. Butte officials urge vaccinations

Horses owners in Butte County should vaccinate their animals against West Nile virus, health officials warn, as mosquitoes are expected to proliferate in the Camp Fire burn area after a particularly rainy season.

West Nile virus is a potentially serious, sometimes fatal disease that can be transmitted to animals and people through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Horses face increased risk for the virus because they generally are outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquito activity is highest, according to a news release Wednesday by the Butte County Public Health department.

In 2018, six of the 11 horses in California that tested positive for the virus died or were euthanized, the release said. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent West Nile virus in horses, officials said.

“With the potential for more mosquitoes this year, horse owners are urged to vaccinate,” Dr. Linda Lewis, a veterinarian with the Butte County health department, said in the release.

Humans are also at risk for West Nile virus – there were 26 confirmed cases of the virus in Sacramento and Yolo counties in 2018, Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District said in a press release. No human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in California so far this year, but positive mosquito samples have been confirmed in Tulare, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego counties.

Horse owners can prevent West Nile virus by draining standing water, scheduling pasture irrigation, cleaning water containers weekly, and stocking water with fish that eat mosquito larvae, the news release said.

Butte County health officials said to consult a veterinarian if your horse exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Stumbling or lack of coordination
  • Drooping lips, lip smacking, or teeth grinding
  • General weakness, muscle twitching and/or tremors
  • Sensitivity to touch or sound
  • Fever
  • Difficulty rising or inability to rise
  • Convulsions or coma

If you are experiencing mosquito problems in Sacramento County, call the Department of Health Services at 1-800-429-1022.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Jaimie Ding, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee with an interest in politics and international relations. She grew up in Vancouver, Washington.