According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of cases of West Nile virus disease reported through August of 2012 is the highest number of cases reported since the disease was first reported in 1999. West Nile virus has been found in 48 states and in people, birds and mosquitoes.
What Is West Nile Virus Disease and How Is It Transmitted?
West Nile virus is, as the name implies, a virus which is capable of infecting a variety of species.
The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are infected by feeding on birds and then become carriers, passing the disease on to horses, people and potentially to dogs and cats also.
Though dogs, cats and horses can become infected, it is not likely that people can be infected through direct contact with these animals or through bites from them. People get West Nile virus disease through mosquito bites.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus in Dogs and Cats
In most cases, when dogs and cats are infected with West Nile virus, the disease is relatively mild, causing flu-like symptoms that many owners may not even notice. Symptoms expected would be a mild fever and lethargy, if signs are present at all.
Most dogs and cats will recover fully from the disease. If treatment is necessary, it is supportive in nature.
Protecting Your Family and Your Pets from West Nile Virus
Because mosquitoes are the carriers of the disease, taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites is the best form of prevention.
- There is no vaccine for West Nile virus for dogs and cats.
- Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. Pets and people should remain indoors during these periods, if possible, to avoid contact with mosquitoes.
- Make sure all windows and doors have screens to keep insects out and keep screens in good repair. Repair any holes or rips in screening promptly.
- Check the area around your home for standing bodies of water and eliminate these. Mosquitoes breed in and around stagnant water.
- DEET-based insect repellents are recommended (by some) for humans. However, they should not be used on pets. Check with your veterinarian for a safe and appropriate repellent for your pet.
If you or a member of your family believe you have been infected with the West Nile virus, consult your doctor. Likewise, if you believe your dog or cat has been infected, check with your veterinarian for recommendations.
For more information, the Center for Disease Control has pages dedicated to West Nile virus disease.