A horse near the boundary between Urbana and Union townships is being treated for West Nile Virus after being bitten by an affected mosquito, according to Champaign County Health Commissioner Gabe Jones.
All Ohio counties collect mosquitoes and send them to the Ohio Department of Health where they are tested for this sometimes deadly virus.
“We don’t want to cause panic,” said Melinda Morrison of the county’s OSU Extension Office. She said chances are slim that a person would be bitten by an affected mosquito. “But we want people to be aware.”
“Very few mosquitoes have this,” Jones agreed. “Just be aware of what the symptoms are.”
Symptoms of West Nile, which impacts the neurological system, can occur two to 14 days after a bite from an infected mosquito and can can vary from person to person.
Low or high fevers, headaches, aching and weak muscles are among symptoms in people. More severe symptoms can include vision loss, paralysis and coma.
Jones said those susceptible to the more severe symptoms include people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, children and pregnant women.
He added that treatment focuses on lessening the symptoms. For example, people with fevers are given anti-fever medication.
He said data from previous years indicates that late summer is the prime time for mosquitoes and recent mosquito-collecting throughout Ohio indicates that is true for this year. “There’s been a big spike within the last couple weeks in Ohio,” he said, adding that rainfall is always a factor. Mosquitoes can remain a problem through the fall.
Although West Nile has not been found in mosquitoes collected from the five designated sites in this county, it has been found in all surrounding counties, so was assumed to be here, Jones said.
There have only been three recorded cases of people getting West Nile Virus in Champaign County, two in 2003 and one in 2002, even though it is required to be reported to the Ohio Department of Health, Jones said.
Reports of animals getting the virus are required to be reported to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Morrison said. She added that she does not recall any reports in recent years.
Preventing the disease
Jones and Morrison noted precautions to lower the chance of bites to people and animals and the chance of having mosquitoes breed on your property.
Jones said spraying to kill mosquitoes occurs in the county, but mainly in more populated areas. That means people living in the country are more at risk.
He advised people to use bug spray and cover skin; the less exposed skin the better. This especially is necessary during evening hours when mosquitoes are more prevalent.
Morrison said animals should not be sprayed, that this can cause side effects greater than the risk of an animal being bitten by an infected mosquito. And, she said, it seems horses are the only animals to get symptoms of the virus.
“Typically West Nile only hits horses. They seem to be more susceptible,” she said. “There are vaccinations (and boosters) for horses. They’re recommended, but not required.”
She said the horse affected in Champaign County had not been vaccinated against the virus. She said a veterinarian was contacted because the horse’s balance was off and it appeared sluggish. In some instances, a horse will be unable to walk. It is hoped the horse will recover with four to six weeks of treatment.
Morrison and Jones said people should eliminate possible breeding sites for mosquitoes. Make sure water left out for animals is fresh, not stagnant.
Health District has sprays and mosquito dunk
Jones said people can obtain bug sprays and mosquito dunk from the Health District. Mosquito dunk can be tossed on the surface of water, such as a pond, and a coating will form atop the water to deter mosquitoes. The Health District is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. The phone number is 937-484-1606.
For more information
For more information about West Nile Virus affecting people and horses, visit the Champaign Health District website at http://www.champaignhd.com/home/ and the Ohio Department of Health website at https://www.odh.ohio.gov/arboupdate
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331.