How to spot West Nile fever, what to do if you suspect it and measures to prevent its spread.
West Nile fever affects a variety of animals including but not limited to:
West Nile fever is a notifiable disease. That means if you suspect it you must tell the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.
How to spot West Nile fever
In horses clinical signs can include:
- lack of energy
- loss of coordination
- weakness in limbs leading to stumbling
Some horses will not show any signs at all.
Birds are the main carrier of West Nile fever, but not all species show signs of the disease.
Risk to humans from West Nile virus
Humans can be affected by West Nile virus, although often the infection does not lead to any symptoms. If present, the most common symptoms are a flu-like illness.
Most mild infections resolve in a few days. A more severe disease develops in less than 1% of cases.
You can read more about West Nile virus in humans at NHS Choices.
How West Nile fever is spread
The disease is spread by mosquitoes. It is not spread directly between animals.
Birds are the most common carriers and may spread West Nile fever between countries when they migrate.
Preventing and controlling West Nile fever
You can help prevent the disease by practising strict biosecurity on your premises.
If you report suspicion of West Nile fever, APHA vets will investigate.
If the disease is confirmed it will be controlled in line with the contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases.
Further information on prevention and control
Legislation on West Nile fever
The main legislation relating to control of West Nile fever is the Infectious Diseases of Horses Order 1987.