West Nile Virus On The Increase, Pets May Be At Risk For Infection Too
August 24, 2012

West Nile Virus On The Increase, Pets May Be At Risk For Infection Too

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert that West Nile cases are on the rise, reaching record infection rates in the US, the health agency is now alerting that residents should monitor their pets for signs of the disease.

All but one state in the lower 48 have reported cases of West Nile. And since more than a thousand human cases have so far turned up, it is likely the threat will continue being that the mosquito season is still in full swing throughout much of the country, continuing to plague humans and possibly even their pets.

While pets can contract West Nile virus (WNV), the CDC said only a small number of dogs and cats with WNV have been reported. In most pets, symptoms are generally confined to a light fever and lethargy. And while there are no vaccines for WNV for cats and dogs, the CDC offers tips to decrease the likelihood of you and your pet from contracting the disease.

The best bet is to stay indoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Keeping your pet indoors during these times is also an important safety measure. Door and window screens should also be tightly sealed, and holes fixed, to keep mosquitoes from entering your home. Eliminate any standing water in your yard as mosquitoes breed in these areas.

The CDC also warns that human insect repellent should not be used on pets. Pets´ grooming habits make ingestion probable and the repellant can be toxic. Pet owners should talk to their vets about what types of insect repellants are safe.

The CDC states that horses are more susceptible to illness from West Nile virus than cats and dogs and, though most horses recover from the virus with few complications, it can be deadly in some cases. The virus invades the horses´ central nervous systems and can cause inflammation of the brain.

There is a vaccine for horses to protect against West Nile virus and horse owners should talk to their vets about getting their horse immunized.

Horse.com also offers tips on protecting horses from West Nile virus. Horses should be kept stabled during dusk and dawn hours. Fly sheets, masks, leg wraps and mosquito repellants should also be used on and around horses. Avoid incandescent lamps inside the stall area at night as these can attract mosquitoes. Burning incandescent lamps away from stalls may help draw mosquitoes away from horses. Fans should also be used in stalls because the air movement often acts as a repellant.

Mosquitoes pick up the West Nile virus from diseased birds. If you find a dead bird you should call your local state health department. Only mosquitoes transmit West Nile to humans. It cannot be transmitted from contact with an infected pet.