Two Gila County horses have tested positive for the West Nile Virus.
These are the first cases of the virus to be found in horses in the county, according to a release from the Gila County Division of Health and Community Services.
There was one case in northern Gila County in the greater Payson area, according to David Fletcher, director of the county health office, and another in the southern part of the county in an unincorporated area.
The report was issued Sept. 30, and as of that date no human cases had been reported in the county.
Mosquitoes carry the virus, acquiring it from birds, then passing it on to other birds, animals and people. There is no documentation that infected horses can spread the virus to uninfected horses, to other animals or to humans. There is also a vaccine for horses available through veterinarians.
Dead bird surveillance is one of the primary means to monitor West Nile Virus activity.
"West Nile will probably be going on until the end of the month or the first hard freeze," Fletcher said. "With the freeze we won't have the mosquitoes to transfer the disease."
He said while the mosquitoes carrying the virus will be gone, it will still be around in the birds.
The virus causes encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
Precautions to reduce the risk of infection include:
- Eliminate mosquito breeding sites on and around your property. These sites could include old tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, cans and other containers or anything else that can hold a small amount of water.
- Change the water in birdbaths, children's pools and animal watering pans and troughs at least twice a week.
- Apply insect repellent with DEET or diethyltolumide, to exposed skin when outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks while outdoors. Limit time outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Fix or install window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
For more information there is a state hotline, (800) 314-9243 and a website, www.westnileaz.com of the Gila County Health Department (928) 425-3231, extension 8811, or visit the website at www.gilacountyaz.gov.
Residents should report any dead birds to the Gila County Health Office, (928) 474-1210 in Payson or (928) 425-5882 in Globe.