West Nile Continues Migration

"The inevitable has occurred," said Bruce L. Akey, DVM, when the first positive West Nile virus (WNV) bird case was confirmed in Prince Edward County, Va., on Oct. 13. Akey is director of Virginia's veterinary lab system. Then, as if the deadly disease had mapped its course down the line of East Coast states, its presence was confirmed in a dead crow exactly one week later in a Chatham County, NC.

"Given the geographical hop that this first positive in Virginia took (from previous discovery in Washington, DC)," said Akey, "one possibility is that this represents the fall movement of migratory birds, and the virus is not necessarily 'endemic' in Virginia, yet."

WNV made its first Western Hemisphere appearance in the fall of last year. Birds, horses, and humans fell victim to the illness, which is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos. This year's total number of positive equine cases has surpassed 1999's number. Last year, 25 tested positive, nine of which died or were euthanized. This year, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported 49 cases by Oct. 27. The southernmost three cases were in Delaware.

Randall Crom, DVM, is staff veterinarian and Coordinator of WNV issues for APHIS. He said, "Even though the mosquito season is winding down in states like New York and Connecticut, some activity remains. It is especially important that everyone stays aware of mosquito activity in states farther to the south, like Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Exposure of horses to mosquitoes in those states could occur later in the year. Therefore, there is still a small risk of WNV infection in those areas."

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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