Horse near Boaz confirmed with West Nile virus, first case in Alabama in 2019
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is confirming a recent positive West Nile virus (WNV) in a horse near the city of Boaz, in Marshall County. ADPH routinely reports WNV cases and other mosquito-borne diseases statewide. Sporadic cases have occurred throughout the state for years. The transmission occurs when infected mosquitoes feed on animals, as well as humans, after having fed on infected birds.
This is the first WNV case reported for this year. Additionally, one case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been reported in a horse. No human infections have been reported, but the risk will remain through the active mosquito season.
According Dr. Dee W. Jones, the state public health veterinarian, “Positive cases in veterinary species, such as horses, can serve as a reminder that infected mosquitoes are circulating and people can be at risk.” He stresses that people only get infected from mosquitoes and that horses do not pose an additional risk for human infection.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries collaborates with ADPH by testing veterinary species such as horses and birds. Some municipalities collect mosquitoes for testing and some use sentinel chickens for early detection of circulating mosquito viruses. Although effective vaccination is available for horses, there are no commercially available medications for treatment or vaccines for prevention for humans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites by following these recommendations:
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 when going outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants during dawn and dusk hours.
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air conditiioning, if available.
- Empty standing water from items outside homes, such as flowerpots, buckets and children’s pools.
“With many people enjoying outdoor activities, it is important that residents take every effort to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes,” Dr. Jones advises. “Keep your mosquito repellent with you at all times when you are working or participating in recreational activities outdoors.”
Approximately one in five people who are infected with WNV will develop symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Fewer than 1 percent will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues); however, because the symptoms are more severe, these cases are more likely to be tested and reported.
When a person is infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment for these illnesses can substantially lower the risk of developing severe disease. People over 50 years of age and those with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
Visit alabamapublichealth.gov/mosquito/avoid-the-bite.html for more information.