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2001/09/18

West Niles Virus Continues To Get Closer To Mid-South by Kevin DeBusk Kentucky is the latest state to report a case of West Nile Virus (WNV). Officials confirmed August 31 that a three-year-old mare fro m Bourbon County tested positive. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports 66 cases have been confirmed in the US this year. Florida leads all states with fifty-four confirmed cases. Georgia reports three cases, of which two horses died, and Louisiana reports one. Florida also reported 22 positive cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in horses and three in humans. Mississippi State Veterinarian Dr. James Watson said currently they have no reports of it in the state. "We are testing horses in high risk areas," he said. "Any horse with a neurological disease is automatically tested. "If it's in Florida you have to figure there's a good chance we have it in the Southern part of the state." Dr. Watson added environmentally conducive areas for EEE are conducive for WNV and should be minimized. These habitats include anything that holds stagnant water; i.e. old tires and troughs not in use. "I would anticipate overtime having to vaccinate for it," Dr. Watson reported. "It's a disease and we are going to have to go under the assumption that we have to live with it." Tennessee officials are also taking steps to prevent problems. "To date we haven't had any cases," Tennessee State Veterinarian Ronald B. Wilson said. "We've looked at a few horses and thus far those have uniformly been negative." On the heals of false reports of WNV being found in Memphis, Tennessee Sheri Bolton, public relations coordinator for the Shelby County Health Department in Memphis, emphatically said there have been no positive reports in Tennessee. Veterinarians contacted said they were in the process of sending out letters on WNV to their equine clients. These letters included information on the new conditional vaccine.Veterinarians said they are expecting the vaccine sometime in September. The following is a portion of one of those letter. It was sent out by Dr. Stephen Galloway, of Somerville, Tennessee. "In the past couple of weeks we have received numerous phone calls in response to a local hysteria created by a radio advertisement warning horse owners about the threat of the West Nile Virus (WNV). One of our hospital's major responsibilities is to educate our clients concerning animal health issues; therefore this letter will outline the current information available about WNV and my current recommendations." The letter continued reading, "Fort Dodge Animal Health has received a FDA Conditional License for an equine WNV vaccination, which the TN State Veterinarian has approved for use." He concluded this letter with, "WNV has not been reported in the Midsouth. Since migrating birds are the primary reservoir for the WNV, I do believe it will continue to spread across North America. Like EEE and WEE, I would expect season incidence of the disease since migrating birds, mosquitoes, and horses must all be together (Spring & Fall). Vaccinating your horse for EWT will not give cross protection against WNV since WNV is in a different viral family. Preventative Health Care is a risk assessment analysis, and I currently do not recommend WNV vaccination as part of a routine vaccination for all horses; however, I definitely recommend vaccinating horses traveling into endemic states and also horses of high emotional or economic value." EEE and WNV have not been considered a major problem in the Mid-South. Since 1964 there has been 153 confirmed cases of EEE in the United States. Four of those occurred in Mississippi, in 1997. Both viruses are mosquito-borne and transmittable to equine and human. While WNV isn't as life threatening both attacks the central nervous system and requires immediate attention. Symptoms of WNV include fever, headache and body aches, often with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More serious infections may include high fever, tremors, muscle weakness and coma. In the most extreme cases hospitalization may be required. Symptoms of EEE are high fever, stiff neck, headache, coma and lack of energy. EEE requires hospitalization. When traveling screening stalls and use sprays are suggested. Its also suggested riders avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, and cover up. If you have questions or think your horse might have problems contact your local veterinarian.

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