Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 19, 2002

West Nile virus increasing in Wright County

By Lynda Jensen

Four horses in the Howard Lake and Waverly area have been reported with the West Nile Virus, according to the state department of health.

Two of them died because they had to be euthanized, said Christine Austin-Roehler of the Wright County Human Services Agency.

This makes a total of nine horses that contracted the West Nile Virus in Wright County.

They include the following cases, according to the state board of animal health:

· three horses reported infected in the Waverly area, with two still living and one euthanized.

· one horse in the Howard Lake area, that had to be euthanized.

· one horse in the Buffalo area that is still alive.

· two horses in the Delano area, with one alive and the status of the other not known.

· one in the Cokato area whose status is not known.

· one in the Maple Lake area whose status is also not known.

"It changes all the time," Austin-Roehler said, referring to the number of reported cases. These cases are reported on a regular basis with the department of health's web site, which is www.health.state.mn.us.

One of the Delano horses was vaccinated, and is still alive, she said. It is very likely the vaccination is helping this horse, since the West Nile Virus is kind of like the Chicken Pox, she said. Once a horse is exposed to the virus, it is easier to fight it off, she said.

The vaccination must be administered in two doses, with a required three-week lapse between them, Austin-Roehler said.

The cost for vaccination is about $40 per dose, she said.

"Wright is a big horse area," she said, indicating there was a high number of horses in Wright County compared to other surrounding counties.

Flooding in the area compounds the problem, since standing water is everywhere and contributes to mosquito breeding.

Not all mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus, but "you'd have to have a microscope to see what kind it is," Austin-Roehler said. There are several different varieties of mosquitoes in Minnesota, with only a few carrying West Nile.

No humans have been reported with West Nile Virus in Minnesota.

Health officials are urging people to think of prevention, including wearing long sleeves, bug spray and the like, to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

Especially in Wright County, officials are urging people to get rid of standing water from the flooding to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The Mosquito Control Association www.mosquito.org/ mosquito has additional suggestions for controlling mosquitoes and decreasing the risk of acquiring a mosquito-transmitted disease

West Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that can cause encephalitis in some people, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

This virus usually circulates between mosquitoes and birds in Africa and Europe. However, in 1999, an outbreak of West Nile encephalitis was reported in New York City.

Since then the virus has spread throughout much of the eastern United States, and was found as close as Madison, Wisconsin and east-central Iowa last summer.

In July 2002 West Nile Virus was found in Minnesota. Fortunately, most people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes will experience either no symptoms, or mild illness.

While the risk of West Nile encephalitis to Minnesotans is small, people can do several things to protect themselves from this virus and other mosquito-transmitted illnesses already found here, according to the department of health.

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