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Horse may have West Nile

August 16, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A horse showing signs of neurological damage at a Boonsboro farm is being treated for suspected West Nile virus.

A veterinarian made the preliminary diagnosis Wednesday after examining Goldie, a 20-year-old gelding who was experiencing lameness in his front legs, said Robin Rippeon, owner of Homeward Bound Horse Rescue on San Mar Road.

Goldie's symptoms progressed to muscle tremors, stiffness, fever and sweating, which led the veterinarian to believe Goldie was infected by West Nile virus.

Final test results are expected within two weeks, Rippeon said.

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus, which attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Because his muscles were weakened, Goldie was suspended in a sling to support him and is responding well to medication, Rippeon said.

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The other horses on her farm for abused or unwanted horses are not showing any symptoms, Rippeon said. All have been inoculated as a precaution, she said.

If the tests show Goldie has West Nile virus, it will be the second confirmed case of the disease in Washington County.

A dead crow found in Greenbrier State Park near Boonsboro tested positive for West Nile, according to Rod MacRae, spokesman for the Washington County Health Department.

The Frederick County Health Department said tests on Thursday confirmed five cases of West Nile virus in crows in that county.

The birds were collected by the health department on Yellow Springs Road, Autumn Leaf Lane, Sunset Drive, Opossumtown Pike and East Church Street.

Those who find dead birds or have other animals they suspect might have West Nile can contact their local health departments.

People can avoid getting the West Nile virus by wearing insect repellent and not going out at dusk when mosquitos are active, said Jessica Seiders, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Standing water acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so people should empty birdbaths and other outdoor containers regularly, she said.

Infected mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus can spread it by biting a human, animal or bird, MacRae said.

So far, there's no significant risk to people in Washington County, said MacRae.

"It's a concern, but a manageable concern," MacRae said.

Symptoms of the virus are usually mild in humans, but the most severe cases can be fatal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.

West Nile virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999 and is primarily a concern for the elderly or for people with weakened immune systems, MacRae said.

Common symptoms of West Nile virus are neck stiffness, headache, fever, seizures and disorientation.

About 1 percent of people infected with the disease develop encephalitis or meningitis, according to literature from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Epidemiology and Disease Control Program.

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, which are the three membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord.

There is no West Nile vaccine available for humans. A West Nile horse vaccine is available.

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