West Nile Virus Vaccination in Mares and Foals

There were nearly 14,000 reported cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in the United States in 2002 by the end of November, and many broodmares were exposed to the virus even if not clinically affected. As the country begins its fifth year of handling

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There were nearly 14,000 reported cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in the United States in 2002 by the end of November, and many broodmares were exposed to the virus even if not clinically affected. As the country begins its fifth year of handling the disease, broodmare owners have many questions about how to vaccinate mares and foals appropriately.


Rob Holland, DVM, PhD, a private practitioner in Kentucky and a technical services veterinarian for the Intervet pharmaceutical company, explained the protocol for vaccinating broodmares. “Vaccinate four to six weeks before foaling,” he said, “and what you’re doing is boostering their IgG (a type of antibody) and all their immunological parameters. In the case of the mare and the (unborn) foal, there’s a six-layer placenta that does a very good job of protecting the foal against potential disease that affects the mare, and doesn’t allow any antibodies to cross it.”


According to Holland, very few Central Kentucky foals have been clinically affected by the disease, probably due to a combination of the inability of WNV to get to the foal via the placenta, antibodies passed to the foal from the mare in the colostrum, and because of the timing of foaling season. “We’re very lucky from an epidemiological standpoint because most foals are born when there are no mosquitoes,” he said.


Maternal vs

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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