A West Nile update for the Prairies

Photo credit: Debra Murphy

Announced today, the first human case of the West Nile virus (WNv) was found in Manitoba for the year. The child, under 10-years-old, likely got the virus near the beginning of July. In other parts of the Prairies, Saskatchewan so far has one positive lab test and those who live in Alberta are lucky enough to not have any cases thus far.

So what does this mean for your animals on the farm or ranch? Dr. Tasha Epp, associate professor in the department of large animal clinical science at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Sask. says as for right now there’s good news, as there have been zero cases of WNv found in animals reported.

“Definitely the virus is present on the Pairies,” Dr. Epp says. “We are just in the early stages of when we might see early clinical cases.”

She went on to say it’s not uncommon for no cases to be reported as of yet in animals; however, she mentions the largest WNv cases were back in 2003 and 2007 and those cases were reported in the later part of July and going into the month of August.

If you are worried about your horse potentially having WNv, Epp says symptoms can vary. Anything from fever, to unsteady on their feet, or even paralysis could be a sign your horse has the virus and should be checked out by a vet.

As far as cattle, Epp says to date, there is no evidence you would see clinical symptoms but that doesn’t mean the cow couldn’t have the virus. In regards to sheep, there have been reported cases of neurological symptoms — but Epp says that’s very rare.

Vaccination is key in the prevention of the virus according to Epp. She recommends to get it in the earlier part of summer that way your animal is covered throughout the entire “mosquito” season.


Jessika Guse

Jessika Guse is RealAgriculture's newest field editor and news lead for RealAg Radio. She's been a reporter since 2015 and has covered a variety of topics including one of her favourites, agriculture! Although she's never grown up on the farm, she loves helping out and learning as much as she can when she visits her families heritage farm near Ebenezer, Sask. You can find Jessika on Twitter at @JessikaGuse


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