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Aug 31, 2018 12:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Water Mill Horse Succumbs To West Nile Virus

There have been two reported cases of West Nile virus in horses in New York State this year. ELSIE BOSKAMP
Sep 3, 2018 10:37 AM

A 5-year-old polo pony died last week in Water Mill of West Nile virus, according to officials at the State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The mare first showed signs of the virus, which is spread through infected mosquitoes, on Monday, August 20. The Equine Disease Communication Center, which records disease outbreaks in horses in North America, reported that the horse was feverish and had difficulty eating and breathing.

The horse’s health rapidly declined overnight, and the pony died the following day, on August 21, the center announced. A blood test confirmed that the horse—which was not named, nor was its owner—had contracted West Nile virus.

Officials from the Suffolk County Health Department could not immediately be reached for comment on the incident.

It is unclear what kind of veterinary care the horse received in the days and hours before her death. There is no specific treatment for horses with West Nile. A vaccine is available to help protect against the infection, but the Water Mill horse had not received it.

“Veterinarians with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets recommend that horse owners consult with their vets about vaccinations against West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis, as well as other easily prevented horse diseases,” Kirstan Conley, a department spokeswoman, said.

According to a State Department of Health press release, horses are “very sensitive” to West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis, another mosquito-borne disease. Eastern equine encephalitis can often be deadly, the release noted.

“Any horse with neurologic symptoms should be immediately examined by a veterinarian or referred to our department for testing,” said Ms. Conley. “Neurologic symptoms can stem from a variety of illnesses and causes, including rabies, which needs to be investigated by a veterinarian.”

Earlier this week, horse trainers in Bridgehampton at the Hampton Classic—one of the world’s most prestigious horse shows—said that West Nile is not of great concern because all of their horses have been vaccinated.

This is the second confirmed case this year—and the first in Suffolk County—of a horse suffering from West Nile virus in New York State, the Department of Agriculture and Markets noted. Last year, the state had no reported cases of West Nile virus in horses, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There have been seven non-fatal human cases of the mosquito-borne illness in the state this year, according to the State Department of Health. The first three cases in Nassau, Westchester and Monroe counties were just announced last week by Health Department officials.

“The most important thing New Yorkers can do is take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from mosquito bites,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.

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