Following reports of a veterinarian warning colleagues and horse owners about West Nile infection in a British Columbia horse, Dr Brian Radke, a Public Health Veterinarian at the BC Ministry of Agriculture, has clarified the situation.

"The BCCDC co-ordinates WNV surveillance for the province of BC including monitoring of mosquitoes, birds, horses and humans. The BC Ministry of Agriculture supplies information to BCCDC on horse cases. In Canada, equine cases of WNV are reportable the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The CFIA has no reports of WNV consistent with the Prince George horse. Discussions with the veterinary practitioner have clarified that the horse’s illness, which occurred in November, was not due to WNV.

The testing discussed in the article was not conducted at the provincial government animal health laboratory. The BC Ministry of Agriculture is following up to determine the nature of the WNV testing and the appropriate interpretation of the test results.

BCCDC WNV surveillance indicates the following:

  • In 2011 no humans, mosquitoes, or birds were detected with WNV infection in BC. One horse in the Central Okanagan was reported as positive and that report is under review.
  • There have been no positive WNV indicators in the Prince George area.
  • In BC, WNV has been detected in southern parts of the province, all below N50 latitude. (By comparison, Prince George is N54 latitude.)
  • Risk modelling by BCCDC suggests that Northern BC, including Prince George, experience insufficient sustained heat during the short summer for WNV to amplify and be transmissible by the low density of vector mosquito species.
  • The risk modelling also suggests that even in the warmest (that is, southern interior) areas of the province, the risk of WNV infection decreases significantly in September as the vector typically ceases seeking blood meals.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture and BCCDC look forward to working with the province’s equine practitioners to interpret WNV testing results and epidemiology to assess the risk of WNV to horses in the various regions of BC. The assessment of risk could then inform decisions about the appropriate interventions for WNV infection in horses in the various regions."

We thank Dr. Radke for the information.