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August 31, 2016

A horse in Redmond, Oregon has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNv). West Nile virus is spread to humans and animals through infected mosquitoes. This is the first reported animal case of West Nile Virus in Deschutes County in recent years.

Infected horses may display one or more of the following symptoms: Lack of coordination and stumbling (most commonly described symptom), depression or apprehension, anorexia (off feed), weakness of the hind limbs, falling down, inability to rise, flaccid paralysis of the lower lip (droopy lip), muscle twitching, grinding teeth, inability to swallow, head pressing, colicky appearance, aimless wandering, hypersensitivity and excitability, excessive sweating, disorientation, convulsions, and possible total paralysis.

Certain species of mosquitoes carry WNv and acquire the virus when they feed on infected birds. WNv is not spread through casual contact such as touching or kissing a person with the virus. There is a WNv vaccine for horses but not for humans.

Taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites can prevent infections in humans:

Eliminate Mosquitoes Around Your Home:
The first line of defense against mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquitoes. Eliminate mosquito-breeding areas (standing water) around your home such as puddles or containers that hold water. This includes old tires, buckets and cans. Change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths or stock tanks at least once a week. Consider using products sold in garden stores containing larvicidal bacteria to treat ponds or bodies of water that cannot be eliminated to kill mosquito larvae. Inspect all window and door screens at home to make sure they are free of holes.

Protect Yourself: 
Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. When outdoors, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants.  Choose and use a repellent that contains one of these active ingredients: DEET, picardin (odorless), oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR-3535.

West Nile Virus: What are the Symptoms? Who is at Risk?
WNv can be a mild to serious illness and can affect the central nervous system. Symptoms vary and develop between 3 and 14 days after an infected mosquito bites a person. There is no specific treatment for the virus.

Approximately 80 percent of people who are infected with WNv will show NO symptoms at all. Up to 20 percent of people infected will display symptoms that can include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands, and skin rash. Symptoms can last from a few days up to several weeks. Less than 1% of people infected with WNv will develop serious illness. This may include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness or paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks; neurological effects may be permanent. 

Young children and adults over 50 are at higher risk of getting sick. If you or someone you know is at risk and develops symptoms, seek medical care. Read the story on Deschutes County’s website.

For more information about West Nile virus, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/