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January 19, 2021

West Nile virus infected horse east of Watsonville

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced confirmation of a case of West Nile virus in a horse east of Watsonville. Spread by mosquitoes, West Nile is a bird can also infect people and animals. In Santa CruzCounty, this is the first case reported in 2015.
 The horse is recovering and Santa Cruz County Mosquito and Vector Control is monitoring and controlling mosquitoes in the area and throughout the County, and mosquito counts are decreasing.
 “We urge everyone to reduce the risk by emptying standing water in your yard and to wear mosquito repellent when outdoors at dawn or dusk. Although the current risk is low, the disease can be life changing; these simple precautions can protect you from serious illness,” said Paul Binding, mosquito control manager for the County.
 Horses are a dead-end host for WNV, meaning they cannot infect people or other animals. Mosquitoes become infected after feeding on birds that have high levels of the virus in the blood. The mosquitoes then pass the virus onto horses, people, birds or other animals while feeding on them.
 Not every horse exposed to the virus will develop WNV. Of the horses that do develop clinical signs, approximately 30 percent will succumb to the disease. Signs of the disease in horses include stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitching or inability to stand. A veterinarian should be consulted if a horse is exhibiting these signs.
 Vaccinations for horses are available. Horse owners should contact a veterinarian to discuss this preventive measure, especially in counties where there is known WNV infection. The timing of the vaccine is critical because it must be administered prior to disease exposure.
 Residents are urged to report dead birds to the West Nile Virus state hotline: 1-877-968- 2473. Reports may also be made online at www.westnile.ca.gov. Dead bird reports are an important tool for West Nile virus detection and to determine the location of higher risk areas.