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Reference Desk April 2012

Kentucky Officials Warn Equine Owners Conditions Are Ripe for West Nile Activity

    FRANKFURT, Kentucky, March 28, 2012—Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer issued a warning that weather conditions are ripe for an outbreak of West Nile Virus and cited State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout’s advice that Kentucky equine owners should consult their veterinarians about vaccinating their horses against the disease.

    “While we do not wish to cause unnecessary alarm, we are concerned about the equine population’s vulnerability to thispotentially deadly disease,” said Commissioner Comer. “I am confident that Kentucky’s equine owners will act in the best interests of their horses and seek guidance on vaccinations.”

    West Nile is spread by mosquitoes, and mosquitoes thrive in the warm, wet conditions Kentucky has experienced in the last few weeks. No horse in Kentucky that has undergone a full West Nile vaccination regimen is known to have contracted the virus since 2003, according to Dr. Stout. West Nile was first discovered in Kentucky in 2001, and Kentucky experienced 513 equine cases of the disease in 2002 and 102 cases in 2003. Kentucky recorded one equine case in 2011, in Fleming County. 

    West Nile Virus causes encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, in horses, humans, birds, and other warm-blooded animals. It is transmitted by mosquitoes that acquire it from infected birds. Humans and equine cannot transmit the disease. It was first discovered in the United States in 1999 in New York.

    Source: Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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