HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed last week the West Nile virus was found in a horse in East Hanover Township, Dauphin County, near the state’s capital.
This is the first confirmed case of West Nile infection in a Pennsylvania horse.
An infected horse does not transmit the virus to people and does not pose a threat to other horses or people who may have come in contact with or cared for the horse.
The 25-year-old infected horse from the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association horse farm was put down Sept. 22 after it began to show signs of encephalitis. The state department of agriculture and the USDA now have confirmed the horse’s West Nile virus infection.
“There still are no reports of any people contracting West Nile virus in Pennsylvania,” said state Physician General Dr. Robert Muscalus. “People can get the virus through the bite of infected mosquitoes, but not from infected horses or other animals.
“Even if a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, the risk of a serious infection remains low.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in cooperation with Dauphin County’s West Nile coordinator, already has taken steps to reduce mosquito populations in the area.
The state Department of Health is working with the owner of the horse farm to identify and reach out to those who visited the farm in recent weeks. Anyone who has visited the farm and has questions should contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.
DEP has set additional mosquito traps in Dauphin County to collect as many adult mosquitoes as possible. So far, no infected mosquitoes have been found in the area and there are no plans to spray for adult mosquitoes at this time.
Health Secretary Robert S. Zimmerman Jr. reminded residents to continue to report dead birds by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH. Four American crows from southeastern Pennsylvania tested positive for West Nile virus in September.
Agriculture Secretary Samuel Hayes Jr. said concerned horse owners should contact their veterinarian. A fact sheet for horse owners also is available through the West Nile Web site, www.WestNile.state.pa.us. The virus, when transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes, can cause West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can cause an inflammation of the brain.
People with mild infections may experience fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. People with more severe infections may experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions and paralysis.
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection. While most people fully recover from the virus, in some severe cases hospitalization may be needed.
For more information on the West Nile virus, these sites also offers information:
prevmed.vet.ohio-state.edu/ or www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/q&a.htm.