Horse Owners Encouraged to Take Steps Now to Prevent West Nile Virus

Harrisburg – Agriculture Secretary George Greig today urged Pennsylvania horse
owners to consult their veterinarians about options for West Nile Virus prevention
before mosquito season begins.
“From recreational trail riders and trained competitors to top-notch breeding and
racing, Pennsylvania’s equine industry represents an important segment of our
state’s leading economic driver – agriculture,” said Greig. “Animal health is a top
industry priority, and I encourage horse owners to speak to their veterinarians
about protecting their animals against encephalitic diseases like West Nile Virus.”
Equine encephalitic diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes and cause inflammation
of the brain. Mosquitoes become more active with warm weather in early spring.
Vaccines are available to help prevent West Nile Virus and other equine encephalitic
diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis. Vaccines are usually
administered in February or March prior to mosquito season. Horse owners should
talk with their veterinarians to determine the best time to start the vaccination
process.
Horses vaccinated against Eastern, Western and Venezuelan equine encephalitis are
not protected against West Nile Virus.
Greig cautioned that vaccination of horses is not a guarantee of protection against
infection. The best way to prevent infection of West Nile Virus is to reduce the risk
of exposure to mosquitoes by eliminating mosquito breeding sites. Important steps
to be taken include:
· Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, buckets, ceramic pots or other
unwanted water-holding containers on the property.
· Pay special attention to discarded tires, which are mosquito breeding sites.
· Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors. Containers with
drainage holes located only on the sides collect enough water to act as
mosquito breeding sites.
· Clean clogged roof gutters every year. Millions of mosquitoes can breed in
roof gutters each season.
· Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
· Empty and refill outdoor water troughs, buckets and birdbaths every few
days so water does not stagnate.
· Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become
major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
· Clean and chlorinate swimming pools when not in use. Mosquitoes may breed
in the water that collects on pool covers.
· Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property,
especially near manure storage areas. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle
that lasts for more than four days.
Additional steps can be taken by horse owners to protect their horses:
· Reduce the number of birds in and around the stable area. Eliminate roosting
areas in the rafters of the stable. Certain species of wild birds are the main
reservoir for the virus.
· Check the property for dead birds, especially crows. Any suspicious birds
should be reported online to www.westnile.state.pa.us or by calling the
Department of Environmental Protection at 717-346-8238. Use gloves to
handle dead birds and place the birds in plastic bags. If not submitting the
bird for testing, the bagged bird can be placed in the trash. Wash hands
thoroughly with soap and water after discarding the dead bird.
· Topical preparations containing mosquito repellents are available for horses.
Read the product label before using.
For more information contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau
of Animal Health at 717-783-6897 or visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.


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