Health & Medicine

Horse in El Dorado County infected with West Nile virus

West Nile deaths hit a new high in 2015.
West Nile deaths hit a new high in 2015. CDC

A horse in El Dorado County’s Greenwood community has been found to be infected with West Nile virus, county health officials announced Monday.

“The horse is recovering and expected to survive, but the case reminds us that the virus is circulating and horse owners need to take precautions,” Fred Sanford of the El Dorado County Environmental Management Division said in a written statement.

Horses exposed to the virus, he said, are vulnerable to serious complications and even death, but a vaccine available from many veterinarians can protect horses.

Horses can get West Nile virus when they are bitten by a mosquito that has the virus. Signs of the disease in horses include fever, stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitches or inability to stand. A veterinarian should be consulted if a horse exhibits these signs, health officials said.

Not every horse that is exposed gets West Nile virus. Of those horses that exhibit symptoms, officials said, approximately 30 percent die from the illness.

Horses cannot give the virus to people or other animals.

Vaccination for West Nile virus is recommended for all horses in North America, officials said. The vaccination generally protects the horse for one year. Although there is no West Nile virus vaccine for humans or other domestic animals, officials said llamas and alpacas may benefit from the horse vaccine.

County health officials advise horse owners to consult their veterinarian to ensure the current vaccination status of their horses and to discuss the use of safe, effective mosquito repellents. DEET-containing products are not approved for pets and may cause poisoning.

So far this year, no humans cases of West Nile virus have been reported in El Dorado County.

To help reduce the spread of West Nile virus, residents are urged to drain standing water around property and to keep water in swimming pools, ponds and troughs circulating or treated for mosquitoes.

The El Dorado County Environmental Management Division conducts mosquito surveillance and control programs. For more information, or to schedule an inspection and treatment for standing water sources, call the division at 530-621-5300.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy