Friday, January 26, 2001
Carlisle horses test negative for West Nile virus
All horses tested for West Nile virus in Carlisle had negative test results for the disease last fall, according to Deb Toher, Carlisle's field driver. Working with state veterinarian Dr. Lorraine O'Connor and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, she helped to spot check over 100 horses within a five-mile radius of Bedford after a horse died from the virus there last summer.
Two more horses tested positive for West Nile virus in Bedford, but the horses are healthy and are doing well. If an animal is healthy it can fight the virus and survive, while very young and very old animals are most at risk of dying from the disease. More testing is expected to be done this year.
West Nile Virus is carried by birds and is transmitted by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected bird it can then transmit the disease by biting an animal or human. At this time authorities are not sure which of the various types of mosquitoes carry the disease. While there is a need for concern about West Nile virus, which is here to stay, there is no need to be alarmed about horses transmitting the disease, says Toher. Horses cannot pass the virus on to humans or to barnyard animals.
Toher gives the following advice to help protect horses from contracting West Nile virus:
· In the warm weather, keep horses and farm animals in the barn at night to cut down on their exposure to mosquitoes.
· Do not let farm animals drink out of streams because mosquitoes are attracted to water.
· Remove all standing water in buckets, tires or containers to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water.
· Look for any unusual behavior in horses, particularly neurological symptoms such as staggering, unsteady gait, unexplained lameness or "head-pressing." While other things can cause these symptoms, it is best to alert a veterinarian if a horse has any of these problems.
Toher, who assists police by rounding up horses, cows and other farm animals when they get loose from their pastures in Carlisle, reminds owners to schedule standard spring inoculations for their horses in March or April. She also asks that all dog and cat owners keep their animal's rabies vaccines up-to-date, including both indoor and outdoor pets. She says that statewide about 90 percent of dogs are vaccinated against rabies, while 85 percent of cats are not vaccinated against the disease.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito