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News Release

California Department of Food and Agriculture

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

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Release #07-019
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Horse owners urged to maintain vaccinations

SACRAMENTO February 21, 2007 The first case of equine West Nile Virus in 2007 has been reported in California. A horse in Sonoma County has been diagnosed with the disease. The detection serves as a reminder to horse owners to make sure their animals are vaccinated. Last year, 58 horses in the state were known to have contracted the disease, with 24 deaths. In the great majority of those cases the horses were either not vaccinated or vaccinated improperly.

"Outbreaks of West Nile virus are expected to continue this year," said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. "Horse owners should contact their veterinarians as soon as possible to ensure current vaccination status, so that horses will have maximum protection against the disease."

Signs of West Nile virus 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 taken a public education program directly to the equine community over the last several years, including tips on mosquito control.

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

Note to TV editors CDFA has a 30-second Public Service Announcement available urging horse owners to maintain vaccinations for their horses. Contact CDFA's Office of Public Affairs to acquire a copy, or you may view it online by selecting one of the left-column links on this CDFA web page:

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