Saturday, March 28, 2015

West Nile Virus in U.S. Horses - Full Article

West Nile virus has infected more than 25,000 horses since its 1999 entrance into the United States.

By Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Imagine a foreign disease making its way steadily across the country, killing horses one mosquito bite at a time. This disease isn’t easily spotted; after all, horses aren’t dropping as they’re bitten. Rather, development of the illness is an insidious, slow process that has you wondering what’s wrong with your horse for hours or maybe even days. The horse acts a little depressed, then eventually starts to tremble and twitch. Then he can’t get up. And, finally, with the help of your veterinarian, you’re forced to say goodbye.

The disease has no cure. No vaccine. No clear path of transmission.

Today, West Nile virus (WNV) might seem like just another preventable disease and a shot your horse gets once or twice a year—a single vaccine listed among several others in the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) core recommendations. But, a little more than 15 years ago, this virus and the severe neurologic disease it causes—which affects many species, including humans —posed the biggest health threat the horse industry had seen in the 20th century. This is the story of WNV in North America. It’s a story of a real risk to our country’s horses, as well as rapid spread of fear and irrational rumors. It’s also a story about how the veterinary community, the U.S. government, and animal health industry joined forces to find a way to protect our horses...

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