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31-03-2011 - Growing number of horses struck down by unusual illness

Growing number of horses struck down by unusual illness Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The AVA are warning horse owners to take precautions against mosquito borne disease, as veterinarians report a growing number of horses with unusual neurological signs in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

"These cases are still under investigation, however, they may result from infection with a mosquito borne virus in the Kunjin-West Nile group," said Dr Christine Smith, President-Elect of the Equine Veterinary Association.

"Clinical signs may include depression and mild colic. These may also include the onset of neurological signs including increased responsiveness to touch and sound, facial paralysis and difficulty masticating, hypermetria in forelimbs and weakness in hindquarters, general ataxia and/or recumbency.

"Most of the horses involved appear to be recovering slowly, however there have also been reports of a few deaths," said Dr Smith.

The NSW Department of Industry and Investment requests bloods samples (serum and heparin) be submitted to the relevant laboratory, and follow up blood samples at 7 days and 3 weeks after the onset of clinical signs.

All of the horses tested by the NSW Department of Industry and Investment so far have been negative for Hendra virus, however veterinarians should follow PPE protocols when examining sick animals.

There are a range of products available including fly veils and registered chemical treatments to help protect horses from insect bites. It is also advisable to try to keep horses inside during dawn and dusk to help reduce their exposure to mosquitoes.

If a horse is exhibiting these clinical signs the owner should consult a veterinarian immediately.

Further information for AVA members

For further information and requests for interviews contact the AVA media office on (02) 9431 5062, 0439 628 898 or

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