Experts Bracing for More West Nile Problems This Year

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Last year there were 117 cases of West Nile Virus in horses here in Florida. So far this year only three cases have been reported.

The experts tell NewsChannel Seven that is not a reason to think it’s okay to skip a vaccination for your horse. In fact, it has never been more important than it is now.

Andy Andreasen is Washington County’s Agriculture Extension agent. He says, “We are getting to the time of the year when West Nile is starting to make itself present, especially here in the southeast part of the United States.”

Although the number of outbreaks in horses is significantly down from last year, owners of these animals should still take caution. West Nile and Encephalitis are commonly spread by migrating birds.

Andreasen says horses seem to be more susceptible.

“The horses are where we see the biggest manifestation of the diseases. A mosquito feeds on an infected bird, gets the disease or draws blood from that bird and then feeds on a person or a horse.”

Currently, there are vaccinations for horses, but none for people. If you suddenly have flu-like symptoms you should check with your physician.

Some of the symptoms include severe headaches in people as well as in animals. The experts tell us sometimes animals get headaches too, and they might push against a post or a tree because the pressure on the brain is severe.

Vaccination for West Nile and Encephalitis are available at your veterinarian or vet supply store. Extended Web Coverage

West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home. Remove standing water from any item or area that can hold water. Standing water is a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face; spray on clothing, as well. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin and clothing.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • Stay inside at dawn and dusk because that is when mosquitoes are most active.

Source: contributed to this report