LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

SAN ANTONIO As a dozen quarter horses leisurely eat from the hay bales, their tails thrash the air around them, striking at the tiny flies and mosquitoes that zero-in on their backsides.

The owner says let the bugs bite. On this Bulverde ranch, the horses are covered by West Nile booster shots.

West Nile virus appears in horses before it begins showing up in humans.

So horses used to be a good indicator for health experts that the potentially-deadly virus was in the area, according to veterinarian Dr. Kenny Patin.But that has changed in the last several years, because the vaccine has become part of the routine for breeders and owners.

State officials say there have been 14 cases of equine West Nile virus in 11 Texas counties this year.

No horses in our area have contracted the disease...yet.

The vaccine isn t the only deterrent. Experts say so is our weather pattern. Years of drought have kept mosquitoes that carry the disease from breeding.

We aren t getting as much rain here in South Texas as they are getting in Dallas. I m sure the mosquito population there is a lot more than ours, said Patin.

But Sunday morning s five inches of rain and the approach of fall could heighten the threat of West Nile in Bexar County.

In horses, the virus can cause sluggish behavior, blindness, even death.

And that, said Patin, is nothing to swat with a horsetail.

It s deadly if not treated, he said.

Texas Department of State Health Services

Equine West Nile Virus (WNV) Report

Year
County
# of Horses
Arbovirus
2012
Brazoria County
1
WNV
2012
Cass County
1
WNV
2012
Collin County
2
WNV
2012
Cooke County
1
WNV
2012
Donley County
1
WNV
2012
Dallas
2
WNV
2012
Hunt
1
WNV
2012
Midland
1
WNV
2012
Parker County
1
WNV
2012
Red River
2
WNV
2012
Williamson
1
WNV
Total
14
11 Counties

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.khou.com/story/news/local/texas/2014/07/21/11800338/