Kentucky Leaders Meet To Discuss West Nile Virus

Researchers, government officials, and private practitioners who are members of the Emerging Diseases Committee met at the Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center for nearly two hours to discuss how to handle information dissemination to veterinarians and horse owners on West Nile virus (WNV) in Kentucky. The appearance of WNV in the state was not a surprise to anyone, and preparations had already been made where possible to fight this spreading disease.

One of the most important messages to the public is that WNV cannot be spread from an infected horse to any other creature, including other horses or humans. The only way the virus can be spread is by a mosquito first biting an infected bird, then biting another animal (such as a horse or human). This is one of those rare situations where the horse is actually in better shape to fight this problem than the human. While both are susceptible to the disease, there is a recently approved vaccine against WNV for the horse. There is no WNV vaccine for humans.

"We have a vaccine that we hope is effective, and we are going to use it," said Dr. Roger Murphy, a private practitioner who is president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners and the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association. However, it is important for all species that an extensive mosquito eradication program be undertaken immediately.

"Only 1% of mosquitoes are carriers of this virus, and of those humans bitten by carrier mosquitoes, only 1% develop a serious illness," said Dr. Barry Meade of the USDA office in Frankfort, Ky.

"We can't control the birds, so we must control the mosquitoes and vaccinate," added Dr. Peter Timoney, head of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center. Murphy said that some of the VNV vaccine manufactured by Fort Dodge Animal Health was delivered today to Kentucky. "I started vaccinating today," he said. "With a 10% mortality rate (death rate for horses which become ill with WNV), it's the smart thing to do."Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Don Notter said that Fort Dodge shipped 250,000 doses of vaccine from its manufacturing plant yesterday to various parts of the country. He said another 500,000 doses should be ready for shipment by Sept. 15. "This was unusual in that we didn't identify the circulating virus in bird first," said Notter. "But it's here, we'vegot it, and we have to deal with it."

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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