Zika Virus: Are Horses at Risk?

Zika virus recently made news for its reported link to human birth defects. But can this WNV relative affect horses?
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Zika Virus: Are Horses at Risk?
It’s possible that horses could be exposed if they live in areas where infected Aedes egyptii or Aedes albopictus (pictured above) mosquitoes are present. | Photo: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control

Q: I’ve heard a lot about Zika virus in the news. Does Zika virus affect horses? If so, what are the signs of disease?

A: There’s currently no evidence that Zika virus can infect horses. Zika—which is a mosquito-borne virus related to West Nile virus and dengue fever— has only been found in nature in humans and nonhuman primates.

It’s possible that horses could be exposed if they live in areas where infected Aedes egyptii or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are present; however, exposure doesn’t necessarily mean disease. For example, a horse could be exposed to a person with chickenpox but wouldn’t get sick because the chickenpox virus is unable to infect horses. As far as we know, Zika virus is the same, but this hasn’t received any research of which I’m aware

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Written by:

J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, is an associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College in Canada.

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