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News Release

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Media Contacts: Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,,

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Release #06-039
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Death of unvaccinated horse in Tulare County signals return of a deadly disease

SACRAMENTO –California’s horse owners are being urged to make sure their animals are vaccinated following the confirmation of this year’s first equine case of West Nile virus. The three-year-old quarter horse stallion from Tulare County died on July 4, and had not been vaccinated.

Last year, 456 horses in California were known to have contracted the disease, and 200 of them died.  In the great majority of those cases the horses either were not vaccinated or were vaccinated improperly.

“This case is a signal to all of our state’s horse owners that West Nile is active again this year and vaccination is the best way to protect horses,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. “If your horses are not vaccinated or you are not sure of their status, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to make sure your animals’ vaccinations are current.”

Signs of West Nile virus in horses include stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitching and inability to stand. Horses contract the disease from carrier mosquitoes and are not contagious to other horses or people. Not every horse exposed to the virus will die.

CDFA is collaborating with state, federal and local agencies to detect and respond to the disease in California. CDFA is distributing a video public service announcement about West Nile virus and has carried out a public education program for the equine community over the last several years, including tips on mosquito control.

For more information, click on or call the Equine West Nile Virus Information Line at 1-800-268-7378. Questions may be e-mailed to CDFA at


The California Department of Food and Agriculture protects and promotes California’s $31.8 billion agricultural industry. California’s farmers and ranchers produce a safe, secure supply of food, fiber and shelter; marketed fairly for all Californians; and produced with responsible environmental stewardship.

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814