West Nile Virus in Horses

(Dr. Chris Blevins) Hello, and welcome to Horsing Around. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center. Today joined by Dr. Katie Delph. She is one of the internal medicine clinicians here at the vet school, and today, we’re going to talk a little bit about a fairly common disease. Maybe people may not think it’s common, and that’s West Nile. Some people, horse owners, will not recognize whether to really need to vaccinate for West Nile anymore because we don’t hear anything about it. But what are things going on about West Nile? Do horses still get West Nile here in the United States, or even in Kansas? (Dr. Katie Delph) Yes, the horses do still do get West Nile. First came to the United States in 1999 and it has seen a downturn since the first few years but horses still do get West Nile. And we do have vaccines for it, and it tends to be horses that aren’t adequately vaccinated that do tend to get the disease. (Dr. Chris) Couple of good points on that. One is, that we don’t see as many horses getting West Nile now like we used to, and why do you think that is? We obviously still have horses that are getting sick with it. How come we don’t have as many horses getting sick with West Nile? (Dr. Katie) I think why we don’t have as many horses getting sick is because there are a few different vaccines available on the market for horses. That is a nice luxury we have, as horse owners, as a prevention tool, and working with veterinarians you can actually get your horse vaccinated for West Nile. (Dr. Chris) How would you adequately vaccinate your horse for West Nile? What type of protocol would they need to be considering if they’re going to vaccinate their horse for West Nile? (Dr. Katie) For a young horse, like a foal, probably the ideal time to start vaccinating, if the mare is adequately vaccinated, is when they’re four to six months of age. And then, they should have basically two boosters by the time they’re twelve months old, three to four weeks after the initial vaccine and then, again, two to three months after that. Three vaccines by the time they’re twelve months old and then, an annual booster thereafter. If there is an older horse that hasn’t been previously vaccinated they would need a similar course. Having an initial vaccine and then two boosters, again, and then, annual boosters thereafter. (Dr. Chris) I think that’s interesting to remember. That when people give the first time the vaccine, it’s not necessarily that protective or potentially not as protective as if they do the whole series. I think making sure they consult with their veterinarian to make sure they’re adequately vaccinating; there the first part is important. (Dr. Katie) Yes. (Dr. Chris) We’ve talked about this before but, again, how do horses get West Nile? (Dr. Katie) They do get it through a mosquito that feeds on the horse that has fed on one of our amplifying hosts, which are birds in our area. Birds actually have the virus in their bloodstream, and then the mosquitoes feed on the birds, and then they are able to pass the virus on to our horses. (Dr. Chris) And that’s also interesting. There are people that sample mosquitoes and they’re positive for West Nile in Kansas, all over the United States, here in lower 48. I think keeping those things in mind is important. (Dr. Katie) Yes. (Dr. Chris) Well, thank you, Dr. Delph. You’ve given us some updated version of West Nile and that we still need to vaccinate for West Nile. (Dr. Katie) You’re welcome. (Dr. Chris) I’m Dr. Chris Blevins at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center, and we’ll see you around.

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