ANDERSON, Ind. —
“The idea is to keep the horse healthy so it can fight the virus,” Norman said.
“If the horse is down and cannot get back up on its own, the outlook is pretty bad,” Norman said. “The mortality rate for West Nile is about 30 to 40 percent. Many infected horses will survive, but many of those will have residual neurological impairment. Not all horses will regain their previous performance levels.”
Norman stressed that vaccines against West Nile are the best way to prevent infection in horses. The vaccine is not completely effective at preventing clinical disease, but it can help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Vaccinated horses that become sick with West Nile generally are less sick, require less intensive treatment, are sick for shorter periods and have a better chance at full recovery. The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends the West Nile vaccination as one of the core vaccines all horses should receive.
Horse owners can take other steps to reduce the number of mosquitos around their facilities by eliminating standing water; keeping stalls and pens clean; using equine mosquito repellents, fly sheets and fly masks; and placing fans inside stalls.(Mosquitos have difficulty flying in wind.)
Vaccines provide year-long coverage, but in areas like Texas, with long summers and mild winters, some veterinarians give the vaccine twice a year. Norman recommends vaccinating horses that have not yet been vaccinated this year to help protect them through the fall mosquito months.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.