virus, mosquitoes, africa, middle east, asia, infection, west, nile, arbovirus, blood, horses, immune, prevention, vaccinate
I am sure you've heard about it on the evening news. But if you're like most Americans, you probably don't fully understand what all the concern is about, West Nile virus.
This virus is known as an arbovirus, which means it is spread by arthropods. Insects. It was originally identified in Uganda in 1937 and can now be found throughout Africa, Eastern Europe, west Asia, the Middle East and in almost all of the United States.
In the summer of 1999, 7 people in the New York City area had died of encephalitis, inflammation of the brain and at least 55 others were sickened. At the same time, crows and exotic birds at the Bronx zoo were also dying of an unusual brain infection. A veterinary pathologist, working with the national veterinary services laboratory was able to link the two seemingly unrelated occurrences to the same agent. West Nile virus.
How the disease was originally introduced into the United States in unclear but it is believed that migratory birds were the culprits. The disease is not spread directly from person to person or animal to animal. For spread of the virus to occur, a mosquito bite is typically needed. The mosquito obtains a blood meal from an affected bird and then injects a small amount of the infectious agent into its next animal victim.
West Nile virus most commonly affects birds and horses, rarely cats, dogs, pet birds and people. Less than 1% of people bitten by an infected mosquito become ill. Signs can be mild flu-like symptoms in people to incoordination, weakness or death in horses and birds. There is no specific treatment for this viral induced encephalitis. Supportive care is key while the immune system grapples with the infection.
So why am I telling you about a disease that mainly affects horses and birds while you`re seated in your veterinarian's office? You can play a critical role in slowing down the spread of this disease. Prevention of mosquito bites is of paramount importance.
Eliminate standing water in your yard. Keep your window screens in good repair. Dress appropriately and apply an insect repellant to yourself and your pets when you venture outside. Always read labeled directions before applying insecticides. Products that may be safe for a dog may be highly toxic to a cat. If you own a horse, get it vaccinated. At this time, there are no vaccines available for other species.