OKEECHOBEE — On Oct. 29, Treasure Coast Equine Emergency Services reported a horse in Okeechobee County was diagnosed with West Nile virus. “The horse began showing signs last week, including depression, moderate ataxia, one episode of fever, and muzzle/neck muscle tremors/fasciculations,” the veterinary service reported.
Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee County Emergency Operations Center said the infected horse was in Indian Hammock, which is not part of the county’s regular mosquito spraying program because it is a gated private property. He said after the West Nile case was reported, they made arrangements to spray the area for mosquitoes. The Indian Hammock area and the surrounding areas were treated thoroughly, he explained. They will continue to use mosquito traps there and may spray again if needed.
He said horse owners should make sure to keep up with their animals’ vaccinations. The Indian Hammock horse has recovered, he added.
According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause disease in birds, humans and horses and is transmitted by many different species of mosquitoes. Since 1999, more than 27,600 U.S. horses have been confirmed with West Nile virus, with an estimated average case fatality rate of 30 to 40%.
According to AAEP, birds are the source of the infection. A horse affected with West Nile virus is not contagious and poses no risks to other horses or birds.