Suwannee County, FL

A horse at a private facility in Suwannee County, Florida, is recovering after testing positive for West Nile virus (WNV). Officials at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed the 4-year-old Quarter Horse mare with WNV on Oct. 8 after she experienced clinical signs that included ataxia (incoordination), depression, and recumbency (down and unable to rise). She is recovering.

This is Florida’s second confirmed case of WNV in an equine in 2021.

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.