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West Nile Encephalitis confirmed in horse in Oneida County

A yearling horse in the town of Vernon has tested positive for West Nile Encephalitis, despite the fact the county has not yet discovered the virus in any mosquito pools during its summer monitoring.

The horse eventually became paralyzed in its hind legs, but was treated by veterinarians and has shown improvement. Ken Fanelli, a spokesman with the Oneida County Health Department, says it can be difficult to keep horses from contracting West Nile Virus.

"There's a vaccine available for horses, however its efficacy has not been shown to be conclusive," Fanelli said. "It's possible that a vaccinated horse could still contract West Nile Encephalitis. It is an annual vaccine, this particular horse in question had been vaccinated in 2012, but had not received a booster shot this year, apparently."

He also says that it's entirely possible for infections to occur without confirming the virus' presence through sampling.

"When you're sampling for mosquitoes, obviously you're getting a sample from various sites throughout the county," Fanelli said. "It doesn't mean you collect every mosquito. There are literally hundreds of species of mosquitoes and only certain species carry the West Nile Virus, so it's not impossible that you wouldn't have any positive pools and yet there are infected mosquitoes out there."

Fanelli says that other horses living on the farm have not shown any symptoms of the virus. The infected horse is also not connected in any way to the Vernon Downs racetrack.