By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
A downed horse was euthanized Thursday after suffering from what veterinarian Dr. James Martin diagnosed as West Nile virus — the first case of the disease in Madison County he has seen in more than five years, he said.
Test results from the University of Kentucky diagnostics lab confirmed the blood work Thursday and Martin is reporting details of the case to the state Department of Agriculture.
So far this year, 12 Kentucky horses had been diagnosed with WNV, according to a Sept. 19 report by E.S. Rusty Ford, equine programs manager for the state veterinarian’s office.
The infected horses had been found in 10 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Six of them survived and six were euthanized. Of the 12 horses, eight were not vaccinated, three were partially vaccinated and one was reported to have been vaccinated, according to the Ford.
Of the infected horses, some were yearlings that had only received one vaccination, Martin said. A booster shot is required within 30 days of the initial vaccination.
Now is the time for horse owners to get their animals vaccinated, he said, and for people to start protecting themselves from the virus, which can be transmitted to humans.
As of Tuesday, six Kentuckians have been infected with the virus this year, according to a disease map by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (diseasemaps.usgs.gov).
“The big concern is that there was a mosquito in Waco that killed a horse,” he said. “Before we get that first big frost, this will continue to be a problem.”
Most horses receive a five-way vaccine that does not cover WNV, he said. The price of the WNV vaccine is generally $30 to $35.
Martin said WNV causes brain swelling and an infected horse will press their head against objects and stagger. Muscles will twitch in the side of the face and neck. Their lips will sag and they will have pinpoint pupils that will not dilate.
The Waco horse showed several of these symptoms, Martin said, but had normal bowel movements and was able to eat and drink. However, the horse was unable to stand up and had to be euthanized.
If several dead birds are found in an area, that may be one indication the virus is present, the veterinarian said.
According to the Kentucky department of agriculture, other counties where horses have been infected are: Bourbon, Franklin, Garrard, Henderson, Henry, Laurel, Metcalfe, Scott, Shelby and Warren.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.