NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Four dogs with encephalitis-symptoms had the West Nile virus, state officials said in one of the first signs the disease may be becoming more widespread in animals.
Three of the dogs died, state veterinarian Martha Littlefield said Friday. They had symptoms that included seizures, trouble walking, "stargazing," and flinching at a gentle touch.
The virus may not have caused the disease, but veterinarians should consider West Nile as a possible cause of brain or central nervous system trouble in dogs, Littlefield said.
Mostly spread through mosquito bites, West Nile virus has infected 2,768 people in 34 states and Washington, D.C., so far this year and killed 146 people, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
It has also infected more than 110 species of birds, including the bald eagle and the endangered Mississippi sandhill crane. Horses have also been susceptible.
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