West Nile virus detected in horse in Umatilla County

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Umatilla County officials confirmed that the West Nile virus has been detected in a horse north of Hermiston in Umatilla County.

Testing at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Corvallis, Oregon confirmed the results Friday, September 27th.

This is the first detection in a horse in Umatilla County since 2009.

The positive horse comes five weeks after officials first detected the virus in mosquitoes in Umatilla County.

"Horses, like people, acquire the infection from mosquitoes that have fed off infected birds. The most important preventive measures that horse owners can take is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas around the farm which are found where stagnant water collects. They should also consider vaccinating their horses for West Nile Virus”, said Emilio DeBess, public health veterinarian.

West Nile is primarily a bird disease, and some birds, including magpies, blue jays and crows are especially susceptible.

Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on an infected bird and can pass the virus to humans, horses or other hosts when they bite.

Health experts are encouraging the public to continue to alert district officials when they come across dead birds, so the district can track the spread of the virus.

“The risk of West Nile is low but we do encourage people to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” said Sarah Williams, Umatilla County Public Health Director.

Here are some suggestions to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile:

Get rid of old tires and other containers where water can accumulate and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when in mosquito infested areas.

Use mosquito repellents containing DEET, making sure to follow the directions on the container.

Call the West Umatilla Mosquito Control District to report mosquito problems.

“Most people who become infected with West Nile Virus do not become ill,” said Williams. “Some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally swollen lymph glands or a rash. In rare cases West Nile may cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Individuals with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.”