Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 26, 2002

West Nile: one Winsted area horse affected

By Julie Yurek

The West Nile Virus is in McLeod County, affecting four horses near the Glencoe area, according to the state board of animal health.

Another horse that was infected is owned by a Winsted area resident, but since it was kept at a Carver County stable, it was included in that county's statistics.

Three of the Glencoe horses have been euthanized, and one is still alive. The status of the Winsted horse was not available from officials as of Friday.

Wright County has 21 reported cases, Carver County six, Meeker two, and Sibley has no recorded cases, as of Friday.

Of the infected horses in Wright County, six were known dead, and nine alive, according to the animal health board. Status of the others was unavailable.

There are a total of 147 infected horses in the state.

No humans have been reported with the virus in Minnesota, but two were reported in Wisconsin, according to news reports. Both patients are expected to fully recover.

The virus affects only horses, birds, and people. People cannot contract West Nile directly from their horses, according to the Lester Prairie Veterinary Clinic.

One-third of horses that contract West Nile Virus die or must be euthanized as the result.

Vaccinations are available for horses, but must be administered in two doses, spaced three weeks apart.

The first dose by itself is not enough to protect the animal, according Christine Austin-Roehler of the Wright County Human Services Agency.

The horse vaccination uses a dead virus ­ and the horse cannot contract the virus from the shot, Austin-Roehler said.

The vaccine can be given to colts as early as two months of age. If the colt is between two and five months of age, it needs three separate doses three to four weeks apart.

It is OK to vaccinate the mare if she is still nursing the colt, according to the Lester Prairie Veterinary Clinic.

Though too late for this year, it is recommended that horses be vaccinated annually at least three weeks before the mosquito season.

Symptoms of the virus include lethargy, hindquarter weakness, involuntary muscle contractions, loss of coordination, head tilt, circling, convulsions, paralysis, and coma.

Besides the vaccine, horse owners should get rid of any standing water around their property to help reduce the number of mosquitoes.

What is it?

West Nile 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, Wisc. 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.

Get out the bug spray

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

Officials are urging people to get rid of standing water, such as old tires, bird baths, and the like, to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Human symptoms of the illness include mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches. Rarely, severe illness develops, but signs include high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, convulsions, and paralysis.

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

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