Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

August 11, 2016

Agriculture Commissioner Encourages Horse Owners to Use Best Practices to Minimize Risk of West Nile Virus

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball today encouraged horse owners in New York State to take proactive measures to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus.  There has been one confirmed case of West Nile Virus in the state so far this year.  Samples tested by the New York State Department of Health confirmed an 8-year-old stallion from Cayuga County was infected.

Commissioner Ball said, “We are approaching the time of year when the risk of West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases goes up significantly.  Taking simple, proactive steps to protect yourself and your animals can be extremely effective in reducing the chance of getting ill.”

West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes that carry the disease from infected birds.  There is no cure for West Nile Virus, which can be fatal in unvaccinated horses.  Owners are urged to ask their veterinarian about recommended vaccines that protect against the virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which can also be deadly to horses.  The vaccines are effective for up to one year, but in areas where these diseases occur year round, veterinarians may recommend vaccination every six months. 

Other prevention methods include:

  • Eliminate all standing water where mosquitoes can breed
  • Use insect repellents and follow the directions on the label
  • Remove animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dawn and dusk

If a horse contracts the virus, it may show signs of staggering, circling, depression, loss of appetite, fever, and blindness.  Horses exhibiting these symptoms should be reported to the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the local health department right away.  Horses suffering from neurologic problems must always be handled with extreme caution, since they may be unpredictable.

While mosquitoes can pass West Nile Virus to humans, horses and other animals, an infected horse cannot spread the disease to other animals. Humans are not susceptible to West Nile by handling a horse that is infected however, the virus is a concern for humans.

Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health said, “West Nile Virus is a serious public health threat for people and animals throughout New York State.  It can cause serious illness.  It is important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites and remove standing water from property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.”

Although vaccines are available to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus in horses, there are no vaccines for humans.  Preventing mosquito bites is the most important way to minimize the threat of this and other mosquito-borne diseases.

More information on West Nile Virus, EEE and Rabies Virus in Horses can be found here.  For more information about preventing West Nile Virus in humans click here.

2016 Press Releases