Horse owners in Canada are becoming just as wary of the neurological disease West Nile virus (WNV) as their U.S. neighbors (see “West Nile Virus Alert” on page 32). The virus, which is harbored by birds and spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, has already affected at least 10 horses in the Manitoba province, and officials are recommending mosquito control techniques and equine vaccination.
The virus was first detected in Canada on Aug. 23, 2001, in a dead bird found in Windsor, Ontario. By the end of 2001, a total of 128 birds in Ontario were confirmed as carrying the virus, with most findings in and between the Toronto and Windsor areas. This year, the virus was detected in Ontario three months earlier than in 2001, and it has since been found in Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Officials currently tracking the westernmost detections of WNV in Canada (in Saskatchewan) plan to test mosquitoes to determine which species are carrying WNV.
The Manitoba government announced that 10 equine deaths were confirmed as WNV cases in the St. Alphonse, Morden, Birds Hill, St. Claude, St. Andrews, Lansdowne, Lorne, and Argyle areas. “Horse owners should watch for symptoms related to the central nervous system such as listlessness, muscle twitches, loss of appetite, lack of coordination, and weakness,” instructed officials. “If these symptoms exist, a veterinarian should be consulted.”