The 8-plus inches of rain that has fallen across the county since July has produced more than full ponds. It has also created breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
These mosquitoes can carry the West Nile virus that can be transmitted to cattle and horses, especially during late summer and early fall, said Rebecca Erwin, veterinarian with Animal Health Center of Marion County.
“We don’t see many cases in Marion County,” Erwin said. “We have done a good job promoting horse owners to get their horses vaccinated for West Nile every spring.”
Symptoms of West Nile can include fever, weakness, loss of appetite, impaired vision, coma, and death.
She said cattle can also become infected with West Nile, but according to Bill Brown, Kansas animal health commissioner, the chances are rare.
“The best way to keep any animal from becoming infected is prevention,” he said.
Eliminating standing water, utilizing insecticides, and keeping drinking water circulating are ways Brown suggested eliminating mosquitoes from pastures and pens.
“If you eliminate the mosquito breeding grounds from an area, then you will cut the problem substantially,” he said. “This isn’t always possible in large pastures, but keeping an eye on your animals to make sure they stay away from areas with standing water and giving them access to clean water helps.”
While Brown has not seen an outbreak yet, he said with the rain, Kansas could see an increase. Kansas averages around 50 documented cases in horses a year.
“It’s too early to tell what will happen, but the last few years the number of cases has been down due to the drought,” he said. “It’s hard to tell when cases will hit our area. It could be next week it could be next month. It all depends on the weather.”
Brown recommends horse owners to vaccinate for West Nile in the spring, and again if a large number of cases are reported in the area.
Horse owner Marianne Siebert of Florence said she does not vaccinate her horses. She puts a touch of bleach in her water tanks to keep away the mosquitoes.
“It is way too expensive to load up each of our horses and take them to the vet to be vaccinated,” she said. “When the vaccine first came out we had 25 to 30 horses, and that got expensive really quick.”
She said a friend who researches the virus at Kansas State University told her to try the bleach.
Siebert has not had a horse become infected with the virus. She also removes manure and any standing water from pastures.
“If you get rid of the environment, it’s easier to deal with the problem,” she said. “It was a big scare at first. Some horses did die, but we haven’t had a problem with it and have decided the vaccine was not the thing for us. If a horse is infected someday that might change.”