Mar 162003
Authors: Bryce Chapman

CSU veterinarians may show the effectiveness of the first West Nile Virus horse vaccine and educate horse owners on the virus’ symptoms.

The vaccination called West Nile -Innovator(tm) was fully licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Feb. 6.

However, because of the vaccine’s infancy, little is known about the success of the drug.

“We hope that by performing this study, we will better understand the efficacy and duration of protection that the vaccination confers,” said Ann Davidson, resident of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and primary investigator of the study.

The study will compare the antibody response in vaccinated horses with those that have not been vaccinated, said Josie Traub-Dargatz, equine professor and co-investigator of the study.

“Horses that have low antibody levels are less resistant to the disease, while those with high antibody level are highly resistant to West Nile,” Traub-Dargatz said.

Even though the results regarding specific data of the vaccine’s success rate have yet to be determined, Traub-Dargatz still recommends that owners vaccinate their horses.

“We know it helps protect the large majority of horses; I am just not willing to guarantee it will prevent every horse from getting the disease,” Traub-Dargatz said.

In Colorado, 378 equine cases of West Nile were reported in 2002, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While some Veterinary Teaching Hospital students are trying to determine the success rate of the vaccine, a group of sophomore veterinarian students have been surveying owners of last year’s infected horses.

“We have been calling owners of confirmed cases and inquiring about the different stages of the disease,” said Tricia Salazar, CSU equine veterinarian and supervisor of the study. “Out of the 820 owners we have successfully contacted over 500.”

By obtaining this information and getting it out to the public, hopefully this summer owners will be able to detect the disease before it is too late, Salazar said.

“These studies will give us the opportunity to plan ahead,” Traub-Dargatz said.

Break out box:

In order to lower the risk this summer for the West Nile Virus in horses:

Use insect repellent on horses

Bring horses inside during dusk and dawn

Apply insecticides

Use fluorescent lights or, if possible, no lights

Keep an inexpensive fan on the horses at all times

Keep barnyard as clean as possible

Clean water containers weekly

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