The preseason warnings are out about West Nile virus. Dr. John Schiltz State Veterinarian for Iowa says fast work by vet medicine researchers has led to a good vaccine and since West Nile hits the equine population particularly hard, all horse owners should get their animals vaccinated now. West Nile is a new variant being added to many forms of mosquito-borne encephalitis that have been around for years, and Schiltz confirms it’s worst in the second or third year it’s found in a state. In 2002 there were 1,142 cases of West Nile diagnosed in horses in all 99 counties. Last year that dropped to 100 cases in just half the counties in the state.He says in large part he credits the drop to horse owners, local vets, and the media getting out word of the new vaccine. Based on the dramatic decline last year, he hopes to see even fewer cases this year. Rather than assume the germ won’t recur when mosquitoes hatch, the state vet advises all owners of horses to get and use the new West Nile vaccine. The virus is just as prevalent says Dr. Schiltz, and he says judging by the number of human cases, which didn’t drop, we’re only seeing fewer animal illnesses because we can vaccinate and protect them. He says it’s in large part a tribute to horse owners for using the vaccine. Of horses that develop symptoms of the disease, about a third will die, so he says it’s more lethal for them even than for us humans or other species of animal.
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