Veterinarians push for horse vaccinations against West Nile

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A lot of standing water is also making central Nebraska a breeding ground for mosquitoes and veterinarians are urging people to vaccinate their horses against several diseases.

Veterinarians are urging people to vaccinate their horses against West Nile virus. (KSNB)

The Department of Agriculture said they see the highest cases of West Nile in horses in August. They suggest removing any places where mosquitoes can breed such as any standing water or pools.

Some symptoms of West Nile include loss of appetite, muscle twitching, or weakness of the limbs.

“They run a fever or go off feed, any of these unusual symptoms you should check with your veterinarian to help you diagnose what the problem could be,” Dr. Jay Stewart said. “These symptoms are serious and many horses recover but a few do not.”

Dr. Stewart is a veterinarian for the Grand Island Veterinary Hospital. He said many people know to get vaccinated after it swept through for the first time years ago.

“When this virus first came through the area, I think it was 2008, we saw quite a few cases and the reason was we had a large population that were naive,” Stewart said. “They had never seen this virus before so that many of them were exposed for the very first time.”

Like any vaccination, it can take 2-3 weeks to fully kick in and start fighting off the disease.

“Consequently we need to plan ahead and if we know we are going to be exposing our animals to sleeping sickness or West Nile or any of the other diseases that are carried by mosquitoes, we need to get those vaccines administered to those horses I prefer in April,” Stewart said.

Dr. Stewart uses net covers for horses faces and backs to help keep mosquitoes and flies off.

It's also suggested that horses be brought inside in the evening and to keep birds out of the stables. There are also sprays that can be put on the horses to help ward off insects.