August is here and that means so are mosquitos, some of which may be carrying the West Nile virus. (Ned Rozell - Yukon News)

Horse tests positive for West Nile Virus in Princeton, B.C.

West Nile Virus is a disease that can spread from infected corvid birds

A horse in Princeton, in B.C.’s South Okanagan, has tested positive for West Nile Virus.

The Cascade Veterinary Clinic, operated by Dr. Ryan Ridgway and Dr. Lynn Smart, shared the information in a post on social media, along with a warning for horse owners to get their animals vaccinated.

“Thankfully it [the horse] was vaccinated so it was not fatal. Had it not been vaccinated, it most likely would not have survived or if it had, it would have had severe neurological issues.

“This is spread by mosquitoes and all horses are at risk of contracting…this often fatal disease,” the post stated.

Neither Ridgway or Smart was available to comment.

When contacted by Black Press, an Interior Health spokesperson said the authority is unaware of the report but there is no present threat to public safety.

“We have no human cases,” said Tim Conrad.

West Nile Virus is a disease that can spread from infected corvid birds (crows, ravens, magpies, and jays) to humans through mosquito bites.

READ MORE: Interior Health warns of increased West Nile virus risk through August

Additional information provided by IH says the risk of becoming seriously ill from West Nile virus infection is low for most people; however, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more at risk.

West Nile Virus was first detected in B.C. in the South Okanagan during the summer of 2009. Since then there have been five human cases – all locally acquired in the Okanagan. Last year the virus was detected in birds and a horse in the East Kootenay area, confirming the virus is present there as well. Several parts of Canada and the U.S. continue to report ongoing West Nile virus activity.

According to healthlink.bc, a provincial government information website, the infection West Nile Virus causes may be so mild that people don’t even know they have it. But in rare cases, West Nile leads to severe illness that affects the brain or spinal cord.

About 80 out of 100 people who have West Nile have no symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they start two to 15 days after the mosquito bite.

Mild symptoms may include:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Feeling very tired and less hungry than usual.
  • Body aches.
  • A rash, usually on the chest, and swollen glands (lymph nodes).

Most people who have the mild form of West Nile have a fever for five days, have a headache for 10 days, and feel tired for more than a month.

West Nile causes serious illness in about one out of 150 people who get infected. It can lead to swelling of the brain (encephalitis), the spinal cord (myelitis), or the tissues around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

Any activity that prevents mosquitoes from biting or breeding can help to reduce the risk of becoming infected with West Nile virus, states an IH press release, which recommends the following protective steps:

  • Prevent mosquito breeding around your home. It doesn’t take much time or water for mosquitoes to develop from eggs into adults. Anything that can hold water can be a mosquito breeding area. Identify and remove potential breeding areas on your property – empty saucers under flowerpots; change water in bird baths twice a week; unclog rain gutters; drain tarps, tires, and other debris where rain water may collect; and, install a pump in ornamental ponds or stock them with fish. Stagnant backyard pools can be a big source of mosquitoes and should be maintained regularly to prevent mosquito growth.
  • Install screens on windows. Screens will help prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn. This is the time of day the mosquitoes that can carry the virus are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing. If you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear loose fitting, light coloured, full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Use mosquito repellent. Apply mosquito repellent to areas of exposed skin. Check the product label for instructions on proper use. Repellents containing DEET are safe for those over six months of age when used according to the directions on the label.

It is also recommended that while risk of infection from handling birds is very low; however, you should not use your bare hands to handle wild birds (dead or alive). If you need to move a dead bird, precautions should be taken. Unusual clusters of dead birds can be reported to the BC Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Investigation at 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).

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