Horses test positive for West Nile

September 16, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

Two Washington County horses have tested positive for the West Nile virus and two others show symptoms of the virus, officials said Friday.

Three of the four animals are being cared for at Boonsboro's Homeward Bound Horse Rescue stables, rescue group owner Robin Rippeon said Friday. One of those, Goldie, a 20-year-old gelding, previously tested positive.

The Washington County Health Department was officially notified of the test results Friday, said Laurie Bucher, director of environmental health.

The other horse that tested positive for the virus is a 4-year-old Arabian horse, Bucher said. Information on the condition and location of that horse was not available Friday.


The number of birds that have tested positive for the West Nile virus in Washington County has increased to 30 within the last week, Bucher said. Only three birds had tested positive on Aug. 14. Birds - especially crows - are believed to carry the virus.

Although there have been reports of the virus spreading to humans, none of the six Washington County residents who have been tested for the virus tested positive, Bucher said. There is no vaccine for the virus for humans.

Goldie, the infected gelding who contracted the virus while being kept at the Boonsboro stables, required a harness from Aug. 14 to Aug. 23 after experiencing partial paralysis in his front legs, Rippeon said.

Two other horses at the stables have displayed symptoms of the virus, but test results have not yet come in.

Toosie, an 8-year-old thoroughbred mare who has been at the stables for eight months, started showing symptoms Sept. 4, Rippeon said.

Toosie and 32 other horses at the stables were given the West Nile virus vaccine in mid-August, which may have kept her condition from being more severe, Rippeon said.

Elizabeth Ponti of Middletown, Md., said it has been difficult and scary to watch her horse, Toosie, in a weakened condition, even falling a few times.

"I've never seen anything like it. Unbelievable," she said. "I felt helpless."

Domino, a 10-year-old Arab gelding normally cared for on Beaver Creek Road, was taken to the stables Friday to receive 24-hour care after showing symptoms of the virus, Rippeon said.

County residents who find dead birds may call a statewide number, 1-866-866-CROW (2769) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

There have been calls to pick up 178 dead birds in the county, of which 122 have been tested, Bucher said.

Bucher said the department has collected seven infected birds from Boonsboro, 13 from Hagerstown, two from Williamsport, two from Clear Spring, two from Smithsburg and one each from Keedysville, Fairplay, Maugansville and Sharpsburg.

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