Horse with Lighter Coat Colors Are More at Risk for West Nile Virus

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"Have you heard?"

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An announcement received today from the Merial corporation is putting horse owners on notice that West Nile virus (WNV) is a risk for all horses in infected areas, but that owners of light-colored horses should be particularly concerned.

The reason? A recently published study shows that light-colored horses have a greater chance of dying from West Nile virus (WNV). (Reference: Epp T, Waldner C, West K, Townsend H. Factors associated with West Nile virus disease fatalities in horses. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2007;48:1137-1145.)

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan evaluated 133 clinical cases of WNV in the southern portion of the province. Of the total cases, 43.8 percent died. Light horses such as palominos, buckskins, grays, whites or duns were four times more likely to die than dark or multicolored horses.

"The study did not explore specific reasons for increased fatality risk for light-colored horses," says Frank Hurtig, DVM, MBA, Director, Veterinary Services for Merial Ltd. "However, vaccinating for WNV can help protect all horses."

WNV is transmitted from mosquitoes to horses. If infected, a horse may exhibit signs such as fever, depression, muscle tremors, weakness, lack of coordination and paralysis. (See Canadian study.) About one out of every three equine WNV cases dies.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recently revised its core vaccination guidelines to include WNV. Every horse in the United States could be exposed at some point during the year, but spring and summer is an especially important time to protect against WNV. The disease shows no geographic borders and has been identified in all areas of the country. (See: Guidelines for Vaccination of Horses: West Nile Virus. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/wnv.htm.) Plus, more temperate climates may experience longer mosquito seasons, potentially exposing horses to WNV for a longer period.

Blogger's note: this information was provided by Merial; the company is the manufacturer of Recombitek vaccine for West Nile virus. ?RECOMBITEK is a registered trademark of Merial Limited. Duluth, Georgia.

Fun photo courtesy of our friends at Equitana 2009, coming up in March 14-19 in Essen, Germany: see you there!

? 2006-2012 The Jurga Report: Horse Health Headlines. All rights reserved.
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