West Nile continues to be a growing threat for the Ark-La-Tex and not just among humans. Horse owners are also seeing a rise in cases inside their stables. So far this year there have been 36 cases in horses in 27 counties throughout Texas.
The threat is prompting owners to take precautions. Cara Yellott trains horses at a ranch in Hallsville, Texas. She says their health has always been key in their performance. And, now that West Nile is spreading into East Texas, horse owners are stepping up their efforts in protection.
"I hope I never run across West Nile," said Yellott. "Everyone here at the barn, we're very outdoorsy people. So we're dealing with being outside, being exposed to mosquitoes, not just for our horses but for ourselves, so it's a concern."
Yellott says she and other horse owners are doing their part to prevent their ponies from getting mosquito bites. She says some tips include consistently spraying the animals with insect repellent (those that are safe to use on horses), keeping the stables clean and keeping fans near the horses.
"We've been paying a lot more attention to looking out for standing water and keeping the mosquito population down," said Yellott. "I think everyone's been a little bit more disciplined in getting the vaccinations done."
Veterinarian, Scott Handlin says his clinic has seen a rise in calls for vaccinations of West Nile. He says, that's the best line of defense.
"I wouldn't say everyone is panicked, I think there's a heightened awareness of the disease," said Handlin. "West Nile was very detrimental to the horse industry. It's a very hard disease to treat. One good thing is we have protection from a vaccination. As long as we follow those regimes and follow your veterinarians advice we can protect (horses) very well."
Dr. Handlin says it can cost thousands of dollars to treat a horse with West Nile. The vaccine costs around $40 and, while it may not always prevent the disease, it can help reduce the severity of the symptoms requiring less intensive treatment.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is also strongly advising horse owners to vaccinate their animals. It says recent rainfall from Hurricane Isaac could be problematic in the coming weeks. So far this year, 28 West Nile cases in horses have been reported in the state. Officials say owners should look for stumbling and trembling of the muscle as signs of the virus.