Horse near Milaca confirmed to have West Nile Virus

Dr. James Winters became concerned after making a house-call Thursday, July 28, to see a horse on a farm southeast of Milaca near Bock.
“The horse was showing classic signs of West Nile virus,” Winters said.
Winters, a veterinarian who practices out of his home near Oak Park in Benton County, took blood samples from the horse and sent the samples National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. Winters received confirmation from the lab on Tuesday, Aug. 2, that the horse had contracted West Nile virus.
A second case of West Nile virus was also confirmed in Minnesota on Aug. 2, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. An unvaccinated horse in Winthrop, Minnesota – in Sibley County – tested positive for West Nile virus and is severely ill, according to Michael Crusan, communications director for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
In regard to the Milaca-area case, Winters said he also heard from a person that three crows were found dead on the side of the road.
“Crows generally are not found dead on a road. Their deaths suggest to me that West Nile virus is circulating quite wildly,” Winters said.
The case in Winthrop is the first confirmed case of 2016 affecting a Minnesota horse, Crusan said. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health had not received lab results regarding the Milaca horse, but the agency confirmed the horse contracted West Nile virus based on its symptoms, Crusan said.
Winters returned to the Milaca-area farm on Wednesday, Aug. 3, to tell the horse’s owners that the animal was diagnosed as positive for West Nile virus. He gave the horse a check-up while he was there.
“It had not improved, but it was not worse,” Winters said.
The horse was able to get around and could eat and drink on its own.
“But it did not have full control of its rear legs,” Winters said.
West Nile virus is regularly found in the United States, and birds serve as the primary host of the disease. Infected mosquitoes can transmit the virus from birds and then carry it to horses or people, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The virus can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Infected horses may or may not show neurological symptoms and many recover completely, especially with annual vaccinations.
Vaccines for horses are widely available and have been proven to be effective in preventing infection. Steps can also be taken to reduce disease risk by reducing mosquitoes, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
Winters noted that people are at risk of contracting West Nile virus, too.
“It behooves everyone to be extra careful, practice mosquito control and wear repellent,” he said.