Third equine case of West Nile Virus confirmed in Delaware

DOVER — The Office of the State Veterinarian announced Thursday that it has found Delaware’s third case of West Nile Virus in horses in 2018.

The infected equine is a 10-year-old pony gelding that was purchased from a Pennsylvania livestock auction and transported to a location in New Castle County on Aug. 27.

On Aug. 30, the pony was observed to have a fever, was leaning and walking sideways. He progressed to show signs of wobbling and staggering, decreased tail tone and facial nerve deficits.

Samples were submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, which confirmed the diagnosis of WNV on Sept. 7. The vaccination history for the pony is unknown. His condition is reported to be improving.

It is the third case of WNV reported in Delaware horses in 2018.

The first and second cases were diagnosed in August and occurred in a three-year-old Standardbred mare residing in Kent County with unknown vaccination status and a two-year-old Thoroughbred mare also residing in Kent County that was not up-to-date on its WNV vaccine. The Thoroughbred horse was euthanized due to the severity of its illness.

West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are diseases transmitted to horses via the bites of mosquitoes.

Humans can also be infected with WNV and EEE, but transmission requires a mosquito bite and the virus cannot be directly transmitted between horses, or between horses and people.

Signs of infection in horses include fever (although not always with WNV), anorexia, head pressing, depression or personality change, wobbling or staggering, weakness, blindness, convulsions, muscle spasms in the head and neck, or hind-limb weakness.

If owners notice any of these signs in their horses, they should contact their veterinarian immediately. Two cases of WNV were confirmed in Delaware horses in 2017.

So far in Delaware this year, five cases of WNV have been found in humans.

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