Vets urge current West Nile vaccines for horses

URBANA — Now that West Nile Virus has been found in Champaign County, veterinarians are urging horse owners to make sure their horses' West Nile virus vaccinations are current.

"Any horse that has not been vaccinated yet this year should receive a booster," Dr. Scott Austin, an equine veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, said in a written announcement.

Earlier this week, the report of a positive West Nile virus test in a crow collected in Champaign became the first sign of the virus in central Illinois.

Previous findings since May have been in birds and mosquitoes in Cook and DuPage counties.

Horses can be infected through mosquito bites and stricken with encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. This disease damages the brain and the spinal cord, and signs of it in infected horses include tremors, circling, difficulty walking, unusual stance and muscle twitching, according to the UI College of Veterinary Medicine.

There is no cure or specific treatment for horses diagnosed with a West Nile virus infection. Infected horses can only be treated with supportive care, and one in three horses infected horses showing signs of the infection will die of the disease, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners

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