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Horse Owners And Vets Must Be Alert For West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus, an encephalitis disease affecting horses, humans and birds and spread by mosquitoes, is threatening to engulf the whole of the USA - and there is now a risk that the disease could be found in Europe and the UK, too. A new information resource on the virus and the disease is now available from Wildlife Information Network (WIN) an international charity based in the UK.

Horses exported from the UK to the USA are vulnerable to infection, and are at risk in regions where the virus is known to be present - which is throughout most of mainland USA.

WNV infection should be suspected in any horse with rapid onset of neurological disease that has recently visited an area where West Nile virus is active. Although the virus cycles mainly between birds and mosquitoes, when horses and man are bitten by infected mosquitoes they can become seriously ill. In horses the infection may cause a wide range of signs, from no clinical signs to severe neurological abnormalities. Nearly one in three horses (up to 62.5%) with clinical signs either die
or have to be put down - and those that survive the disease can suffer long-term problems.

Although vaccines are not yet licensed for use in the UK, they are being used heavily in the USA and all owners and vets shipping horses to and from the USA should be aware of West Nile Virus and take steps to minimise the risk of their animals becoming infected in regions where WNV is active.

The new Wildpro encyclopaedic volume "West Nile Virus" has been published by WIN to aid recognition, diagnosis and control (including vaccination) of this disease.

This volume forms part of a series covering emerging infectious diseases, and the health and management of wildlife. This volume was produced in collaboration with the US Government's USGS-National Wildlife Health Center and is recognised as the definitive complete information resource on West Nile Virus. It is fully referenced and
peer-reviewed. The Wildpro "West Nile Virus" volume is available to members of WIN on the Web-based electronic encyclopaedia through and on CD-ROM for off-line and field work.


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