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Tennessee Horse Infected by West Nile Virus

Tennessee State officials have confirmed a Jefferson County, Tennessee horse has contracted the West Nile Virus. This is the first equine case this year and only the second in Tennessee history.

Dr. Ron Wilson, the State's Veterinarian, said horse owners should look for symptoms but should not be alarmed. many infected horses do not develop signs of the mosquito-borne illness, but it can be fatal to those that do.

Symptoms include decreased alertness, blindness, aimless wandering, head pressing, inability to swallow, substantial weakness, paralysis and convulsions.

Wilson suggested horse owners eliminate sources of standing water that could serve as a mosquito breeding ground.

He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conditionally licensed a West Nile Virus vaccine for horses but its effectiveness has not been documented.

The Jefferson County horse first showed symptoms earlier this month and its condition remains unchanged. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames. Iowa confirmed the infection.

Humans, horses and other animals get West Nile through mosquitos that feed on infected birds. Most people who get the virus don't become sick, but in extreme cases it can cause a fatal brain infection.

The West Nile virus is commonlly found in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia and the Middle East. It did not appear in the United States until 1999.

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