(SPARKS, Nev.) –The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) urges horse owners throughout the state to vaccinate against the disease. WNV is the leading mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States and can cause severe illness in a horse’s brain, spinal cord and nervous system.

Every year, the NDA monitors WNV and other diseases carried by mosquitos (also known as arboviral), such as Saint Louis Encephalitis (SLE) and Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) closely for the protection of public health and the agriculture industry.

“In the Animal Disease Laboratory, we test mosquito sample pools from across the state to survey for all three diseases and report our findings to local health departments,” Laura Morrow, Animal Disease Laboratory supervisor, said.

Due to heavy rain and snowfall earlier in the year, mosquito habitats and breeding sites with standing water are prevalent. Nevada residents should take precautions such as eliminating mosquito-breeding sites, using insect repellents and keeping horses vaccinated against WNV, SLE and WEE.

“Vaccination and reducing exposure are the best protection horse owners have for their animals,” Dr. JJ Goicoechea, the NDA’s state veterinarian, said. “Vaccinations are very effective in protecting horses from WNV.”

Minimizing horse exposure to mosquitos is almost as important as vaccination, according to Dr. Goicoechea. This can include the use of deterrents and elimination of pooled water around barns and stalls (troughs, buckets, tires, pans, etc.).

WNV has been prevalent in Nevada since 2004, while SLE and WEE have been widespread in the western United States for decades. All three can cause severe disease and death in humans. Testing is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State of Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture promotes a business climate that is fair, economically viable and encourages environmental stewardship that serves to protect food, fiber and human health and safety through effective service and education. The NDA includes the five divisions of

Administration, Animal Industry, Consumer Equitability, Food and Nutrition and Plant Industry.