South Shore Equine Clinic & Diagnostic Center
Equine Veterinary Services South Shore Boston Massachusetts

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Questions & Answers


  • What is all this about West Nile Virus? Should I be worried?


The West Nile Virus is an arthropod-borne virus similar to the viruses that cause Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Encephalitis cases are seen in the warm months of the year when the primary vector, the mosquito, is present. The West Nile Virus was first identified in the US in New England in 1999. It has gradually spread over the east coast. The pathogenesis: birds are the usual host for West Nile, it is spread from bird to bird via the intermediate host, the mosquito. Humans, horses, and perhaps other mammals are dead-end hosts, infected via the bite of an infected mosquito, and cannot transmit the virus to others. Not every individual who contracts the virus will become seriously ill. Most will have subclinical infections or develop mild symptoms such as fever, malaise, body aches, etc. similar to other viral infections. Development of neurologic signs such as severe depression, circling, seizures, etc. occurs in a small percentage of cases; some of these cases will ultimately be fatal.

A vaccine for horses currently exists and is recommended by most veterinarians on a biannual basis. Mosquito control is the most important preventive measure for all species, however. Spraying, removing free-standing water, stall confinement during mosquito feeding times, etc. are highly encouraged.

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