Archive for Wednesday, September 18, 2002

West Nile virus found in Basehor, Bonner Springs

September 18, 2002

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 77 counties in the state have documented cases of animals infected with the West Nile virus.

Count Leavenworth County among them.

On Saturday, Sept. 14, Basehor police and Leavenworth County Health Department officials were alerted about a horse at 15711 Leavenworth Road that exhibited signs of the West Nile virus.

Dr. George Schreiner of the Eudora Animal Hospital examined the horse owned by Basehor resident Jeff Lumley.

"It exhibited the classic signs for West Nile," Schreiner said.

Lumley said his horse was lying on the ground and unable to stand when it was found Saturday morning.

"I suspected immediately it could be the West Nile virus," Lumley said. "I knew that it was different than anything I had ever seen."

KSU animal hospital officials said Wednesday that blood tests showed the horse had contracted West Nile.

The horse was transported to the Kansas State University large animal hospital, where the year-and-half old stallion continues to receive treatment. Lumley said the horse would be at KSU for 10 to 14 days.

The KSU hospital is treating horses infected with West Nile from Kansas and Nebraska.

So far, the animal hospital has treated 31 horses that have come in contact with the virus. Six of those horses have died, KSU officials said.

It appears Basehor isn't the only area city to have horses infected with the West Nile virus.

At least two horses found in or near Bonner Springs in the last month have been infected with the West Nile virus and transported to KSU for treatment.

Along with treating the horse found in Basehor, Schreiner also treated one of the Bonner Springs horses.

So far, the horses in Basehor and Bonner Springs are the only ones Schreiner has seen that have contracted West Nile.

"There must be a hot spot around there somewhere in that area," Schreiner said.

Neither of the horses Schreiner examined had received vaccinations, he said.

Dr. Natalee Beck, another veterinarian at Eudora Animal Hospital, treated the other horse found in Bonner Springs.

"He showed signs of general weakness, exaggerated symptoms and quivering lips," Beck said.

Leavenworth County Health Department director Ralph Humphries said there have been no county programs initiated to help stem the flow of West Nile.

"At this point, no, nothing has been initiated," Humphries said.

The West Nile virus originates from Africa, Asia and Europe. It was first found in the United States in 1999 in New York City.

Since then, the virus has spread across the country, reaching 37 states and infecting as many as 1,500 humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and is most commonly found in birds and horses.

According to local veterinarians, the virus cannot be transmitted to cattle or household pets such as dogs or cats.

"It's really species specific," Beck said.

People with the West Nile virus may experience flu-like symptoms. Most people who are infected with West Nile never develop symptoms. However, in rare cases the virus can develop into West Nile encephalitis a swelling of the brain that is sometimes fatal.

There is no known human vaccine against the West Nile virus.

Veterinarians said animals that contract West Nile should be treated as soon as possible.

"The sooner you can treat the animal the better the chances are for survival," said Dr. Bonnie Rush, a veterinarian at the KSU large animal hospital.

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