Archive for Tuesday, October 1, 2002

West Nile hits Kansas horses

October 1, 2002

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That the horse ate carrots was a comforting sign.

About 1 a.m. Monday, Susan Kraus drove from her Lawrence home to a stable outside of town to visit Aladdin, a horse who has been a part of the family for the last three years.

On Sunday, "Al," as the family likes to call the pet, was stiff and had a high temperature. Both are symptoms of West Nile virus, so blood tests were sent to Kansas State University, and the horse was treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. But Kraus still couldn't sleep.

"I brought him some carrots," she said. "I hung out in the stall with him for a while, rubbed his neck  and explained he damn well better get better."

The prognosis for Kraus' horse  even if it does test positive for West Nile virus  looks good, said George Schreiner, the veterinarian from Eudora Animal Hospital who treated the animal. The illness was caught early and the treatments for the disease aggressive. Aladdin had received one vaccination for the virus but contracted the disease before given the booster.

Other horses in northeast Kansas have not been so lucky.

Schreiner said his office had treated more than a dozen horses diagnosed with West Nile virus during the past month.

Baldwin veterinarian David Nottingham said he euthanized two horses with the disease in recent weeks. At one farm, he said, every horse tested had been exposed to the disease.

The disease is invading the area despite thousands of vaccinations last spring. Local veterinarians aren't sure why it is hitting so hard right now, although it could be the result of a long, hot summer that stressed the horses' health, Nottingham said.

He said he had expected the disease to make its way to the area more gradually. But that was not the case, surprising veterinarians and farmers alike.

"When it hit, it hit everywhere," Nottingham said.

Although infected birds and horses have been found in 87 Kansas counties, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed late last week that no human cases of the West Nile had been discovered.

Furthermore, only mosquitoes can spread the disease, which can be  but rarely is  fatal.

"We are getting very close to the time of year when mosquitoes aren't a problem in Kansas, and without mosquitoes the virus does not spread," said Gail Hansen, KDHE's deputy epidemiologist.

KDHE advises that mosquito control and prevention are the best defense against the West Nile virus:

 Limit time outdoors at nightfall and dawn when mosquitoes are active.

 Wear long sleeves and pants and use insect repellent containing DEET.

 Screen your home to prevent mosquito entry and remove standing water from areas outside your home.

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