Kentucky's unusually warm, wet spring has created the perfect conditions for an outbreak of West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease that strikes horses, humans and birds, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer warned.
"While we do not wish to cause unnecessary alarm, we are concerned about the equine population's vulnerability to this potentially deadly disease," Comer said.
To safeguard the state's horses, state veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout recommended that horse owners consult vets about vaccinating against the disease, which can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and can be fatal.
West Nile was discovered in Kentucky in 2001; in 2002, there were 513 cases. But since widespread vaccination began in 2003, there has been only one case and none in horses that received the full course of vaccinations, Stout said.