West Nile virus hits Moffat County
VNA calls human infection remote; veterinarians say horses should get vaccinated now
A horse in Moffat County euthanized by veterinarians earlier this month at McCandless Animal Hospital in Craig was infected with West Nile Virus, according to the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
Veterinarians at the hospital received a call that a horse was down near the Yampa River behind the old drive-in theater on the east end of Craig.
Dr. Kelly Hepworth, a veterinarian at the hospital, said the horse was in a swampy area thick with mosquitoes.
It was obvious the horse had been sick for days, Hepworth said, but could not say just how long the horse had been ill.
He also said the owner indicated that the horse had not been vaccinated for West Nile virus.
We euthanized that night, said Dr. Stacy Hudelson, the veterinarian who reported to the scene of the sick horse. It was down and unable to rise. We didnt know how long it had been in that condition.
The veterinarians would not identify the horses owner.
The Moffat County horse marks the second case of West Nile virus detected on the Western Slope.
The first was in two starlings in Mesa County.
West Nile virus, which is transmitted from birds to mosquitoes and then to humans and horses, has been creeping westward across the United States since it was first discovered in New York City in 1999.
Since the disease hit Colorado this summer, only one person has been infected a fact people should consider before they panic, said Susan Bowler, public health manager at the Visiting Nurse Association.
Theres just one human case in Colorado, she said. The chances of someone getting clinically ill are pretty remote.
Another positive is that warm temperatures are almost gone for the year, she said.
Our mosquito season is at the end, she said. The mosquitoes are starting to die and the human risk of getting West Nile virus is low.
Physicians were hoping cool weather would beat the disease to Northwest Colorado, but it didnt happen.
Everybody was hoping we wouldnt see any clinical cases on the Western Slope this year, Hudelson said. It will be a bigger deal next spring.
Which is why horse owners should be getting their animals vaccinated, she said.
It takes two shots to vaccinate a horse for West Nile virus.
After the first shot has been given, one must wait three weeks to give the second shot.
It then takes another three weeks for the vaccination to take full effect.
The disease will be back next spring when mosquitoes return, so those concerned should get their horses vaccinated this winter, Hudelson said.
The sooner the animals get vaccinated, the sooner they will be protected, she said.
While the likelihood of a human contracting the disease is low, Bowler said those suffering from severe flu symptoms might want to get a check-up.
If a person feels significant symptoms, see the doctor, she said. Dont panic, but see a doctor if you feel bad.
As of Sept. 18, West Nile virus had been detected in birds or horses in 24 Colorado counties, according to the state health department.
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The month of January has been a strong one for Moffat County, in terms of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.