WNV Confirmed in Ontario Horse
On Sept. 30, officials at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) confirmed a 13-year-old Belgian gelding at a private facility in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada, with West Nile virus (WNV). The horse first experienced clinical signs on Sept. 20. Signs consisted of ataxia (incoordination) and muscle fasciculations (twitching). He was not vaccinated against WNV and is reported as recovering.

About West Nile Virus

WNV transmission occurs when infected mosquitoes feed on animals, as well as humans, after having fed on infected birds.

Clinical signs of WNV in horses include:

  • Mild anorexia and depression
  • Fine and coarse muscle and skin fasciculation;
  • Hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to touch and sound);
  • Changes in mentation (mentality), when horses look like they’re daydreaming or “just not with it”;
  • Occasional drowsiness;
  • Propulsive walking (driving or pushing forward, often without control);
  • Spinal signs, including asymmetrical weakness; and
  • Asymmetrical or symmetrical ataxia.

West Nile virus has no cure; however, some horses can recover with supportive care. Equine mortality rates can reach 30-40%. The American Association of Equine Practitioners includes WNV as one of the core diseases all horses should be vaccinated against at least annually.