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State Animal Health Officials Confirm WNV In East Tennessee Horse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - State animal health officials have confirmed that a horse from a Greene County farm tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). Although the virus has been found in birds in other areas of the state by health department officials, this is the first case involving a horse.

“We don’t think there is any need for undue alarm on the part of horse owners. We are confident that with the end of the mosquito season that more cases this season ae unlikely,” said Dr. Ron Wilson, state veterinarian with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “However, horse owners shold be on the lookout for any signs or symptoms of the disease and should confer with their local veterinarian if they have any questions.”

After contracting a brain infection, the hose was euthanized and tissue samples were collected and tested by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Samples were also submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed the presence of virus antibodies to the disease.

Symptoms of the disease i hoses include decreased alertness, blindness or impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow and possibly substantial weakness, paralysis and convulsions. While many horses infected with WNV do not develop signs of illness, it can be fatal to those that do become ill.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease, which cannot spread from animal to animal, animal to person, or person to person. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds and can then transmit West Nile Virus to humans and animals through mosquito bites. Horses and certain types of birds such a blue jays, crows and hawks are particularly susceptible to the disease and serve as sentinels for the presence of the virus. However, health officials stress that the risk of human cases is low.

West Nile Virus has been commonly found in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia, and the Middle East, but did not appear in the U.S. until the early summer of 1999. In the United States, there have been confirmed cases of WNV in horses in sixteen states with most of those cases having occured in Florida and adjacent counties in Georgia.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Kord Animal Disease Laboratory in Nashville provides diagnostic services for livestock owners and private veterinarians. For more information about WNV or other viral diseases in horses, contact the State Veterinarian’s office and laboratory at 615-837-5120.

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