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Horse Tests Positive for Virus

Health officials confirm that the privately owned Camarillo animal is the first equine West Nile case in Ventura County.

August 12, 2004|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

The first equine case of West Nile virus in Ventura County has been reported in Camarillo, health officials said Wednesday.

Positive test results on the horse were confirmed Tuesday, said Randy Smith, a spokesman for the Ventura County Environmental Health Division. The county was informed about the case by the state Department of Health Services.

"I don't know if it survived or not," Smith said of the privately owned horse.

County officials said the horse had not been vaccinated. It began showing symptoms July 30 and was tested Aug. 5.

"Hopefully, a lot of people will take that step and get their horses vaccinated," Smith said. The virus cannot be spread from infected horses to other horses or people, he added.

The Camarillo horse most likely contracted the disease from an infected mosquito, Smith said. Water troughs, barrels and other large water containers for horses are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes, he said.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture confirmed 18 cases of equine West Nile virus last week, including nine in Riverside County, five in San Bernardino County, two in Tehama County and one each in Shasta and Kern counties.

That brings the yearly total in California to 63, including the case in Ventura County. So far, 33 of the horses have died as a result of the virus or were euthanized after contracting it.

Nine infected birds in Ventura County also have died in recent months.

So far this year, 109 human cases of West Nile have been reported in the state, but none in Ventura County. Five people have died from the disease in California.

Health officials expect more infections and deaths as the virus spreads across the state.

Humans contract West Nile virus from mosquitoes, which feed on infected birds. About 10% feel flu-like symptoms, including fever, rash, headaches and weakness. About one in 150 develop encephalitis or meningitis, and less than 1% of those infected die from the illness.

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