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Local West Nile cases raise concern

The death of a Monroe County resident and the report of a sick horse in Canandaigua — both cases due to West Nile virus — have raised concerns, especially since mosquitoes are in full force due to the wet weather.

A Monroe County resident died earlier this month from the virus. Public health officials say the risk will continue through the first heavy frost. There is no human vaccine for West Nile virus, but there is for horses, and local animal owners are being asked to vaccinate their horses. Several cases of West Nile virus are being reported in animals across New York. Five horses contracted the disease, including a 10-year old mare from Canandaigua, according to the state Department of Agriculture. That horse is recovering.

Dan Schubmehl, co-owner of the Finger Lakes Equestrian Center in Canandaigua, said he heard from a friend early Wednesday following reports of the Canandaigua horse with West Nile. The friend asked if all his horses were OK — they are.

Schubmehl said he doesn’t know where the sick horse is in town, but he is glad all his horses are vaccinated. Legally, horse owners are not required to vaccinate for West Nile but Schubmehl said he finds it well worth it for peace of mind.

Finger Lakes Equestrian Center on Parrish Street Extension has anywhere between 19 and 25 horses on the property at any one time. The center offers boarding, training, lessons, clinics and other horse-related services.

“You worry when you see West Nile in your area,” said Kate Ott, director of Preventative Services at Ontario County Public Health. Ontario County hasn’t had any human cases this year or in quite a while, she said. But a bite from a mosquito carrying the virus is all it takes. While many people who get bitten won’t show symptoms, the virus can put elderly people, or others who are more vulnerable to illness, at risk. If you experience flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, chills and so forth — which can be signs of West Nile or other ailments — check with your doctor, Ott said.

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