Hendry Co, Florida

On Nov. 22 officials at Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) confirmed a 9-year-old Quarter Horse at a private facility in Hendry County with West Nile virus (WNV).

The horse, which was unvaccinated for WNV, first showed clinical signs on Oct. 9. His signs included depression, fever, head shaking, muscle twitching, incoordination, and inability to stand. He is reported as recovering.

This case marks Florida’s fourth equine confirmed with WNV in 2021. The state’s 19th confirmed EEE case was confirmed at the same premises.

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.