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West Nile virus confirmed in Kandiyohi County horse

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health said Friday that West Nile virus was confirmed in a Kandiyohi County horse that was euthanized in late July.

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ST. PAUL — A horse from Kandiyohi County that was euthanized in late July due to deteriorating neurologic conditions has been confirmed positive for West Nile virus, the first reported case of 2022 in Minnesota.

According to the state Board of Animal Health, post-mortem tests were ordered to confirm a cause of death for the unvaccinated, 4-year-old Quarter Horse mare.

More than 30 other horses are boarded at the same facility and the owner reports they are all current on their West Nile virus vaccinations and appear healthy at this time, the board said in a news release.

This is a high-risk time of year for West Nile virus transmission, the board said, but infected horses cannot spread the virus to people or other horses.

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The virus can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Infected horses may or may not show neurological symptoms and may recover completely, especially those who have a history of annual vaccination.

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“This is an unfortunate, preventable, outcome from a disease we see pop up pretty much every year around this time,” said Dr. Brian Hoefs, senior veterinarian of the Equine Program, in the release. “Horse owners and their veterinarians should keep a routine vaccination program, including West Nile virus, to reduce the risk of preventable diseases and increase the animal’s chances of recovering fully if they’re infected.”

West Nile virus is regularly found in the U.S., and birds serve as the primary host of the disease, according to the Board of Animal Health. The virus circulates between infected birds and mosquitoes. Once infected, the mosquitoes can transmit the virus to horses or people.

In addition to vaccinations horse owners can reduce environmental risks of West Nile virus by reducing mosquitoes:

  • Change water in drinking troughs every week.
  • Mow long grass.
  • Drain stagnant water puddles.
  • Remove items mosquitoes use for breeding grounds, like old tires and tin cans.
  • Place and maintain screens over windows and stable doors.
  • Use mosquito repellents to protect horses and people from mosquito bites.
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