With the recent rain and high temperatures, and more scheduled to come, horse owners are encouraged by the state Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Department to take precautions and vaccinate their animals against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Oklahoma has not had any reports of mosquito-borne diseases in horses this year.
“From here to August we’ll have ideal temperatures for mosquito development,” said Justin Talley, associate professor and livestock entomologist at Oklahoma State University. “The main thing is water. If you eliminate water, you’re going to eliminate mosquito breeding.”
There are many species of mosquitoes, and all need water to breed and complete their life cycles. Oklahomans can reduce the risk of disease by removing standing or stagnant water in birdbaths, water tanks and wheelbarrows. Eggs laid in small pools of water can hatch adult mosquitoes in only 10 days during the warmest summer months, according to the department.
Talley said horse owners should also keep up with booster shots and treat their horses with a repellant low in concentrations of permethrin, an insecticide. Performance horses should be treated with a repellant twice a week and it should be applied on days when the horses will not be ridden, Talley said.
He said horse owners should try to reduce their animals’ outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
“There’s a lot of natural products but the products with DEET are the best to keep mosquitoes off you,” Talley said.
If there isn’t any rain and the heat refuses to let up, mosquitoes more prone to transmitting diseases, such as the culex, can increase in population. Culex mosquitoes, which are small and hard to feel, prefer dirty water, so if new rain water doesn’t wash out creeks and storm drains or freshen standing water, their populations could increase.
The state Health Department reports no human cases of West Nile this year. An official said it is early to speculate on 2014 since the typical West Nile season runs from July to October. In 2012 there were 176 reported cases of West Nile virus in Oklahoma, but there were only 84 in 2013.
Symptoms of West Nile can include weakness, fever, seizures, blindness and loss of coordination.