West Nile Infects Illinois Dog Written by: Erin Harty, Associate Editor at VetCentric.com 2002
We all know by now that West Nile virus affects humans, birds, and horses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus has sickened almost 2,000 people in 2002, and has caused 94 deaths to date.
Researchers had confirmed the nation's first documented, fatal cases of WNV in a domestic dog, a wolf, and three gray squirrels.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, over 6,000 horses have been infected with West Nile this year, and the mortality rate for infected horses is about 30 percent.
Bird losses are not currently estimated, but are likely staggering. But on Sept. 17, an announcement from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign seemed to mark the extension of WNV's reach.
Researchers had confirmed the nation's first documented, fatal cases of WNV in a domestic dog, a wolf, and three gray squirrels. Experts caution, however, that this does not mean dog owners should shroud their furry friends in mosquito netting and douse them with Off!. Dogs and cats, for that matter are not immune to WNV. They can contract the disease; researchers already knew that much. But experts feel that most canines and felines are not very susceptible to the virus.
Birds, on the other hand, seem to be extremely susceptible; horses and humans also contract the virus with regularity.The dog that died was an 8-year-old Irish setter-golden retriever mix that lived in the Bloomington-Normal area of Illinois."This dog had a condition of the brain showing nervous symptoms," John Andrews, DVM, Ph.D., director of the University of Illinois' veterinary diagnostic laboratory, told the Chicago Tribune. "In that situation it could be a number of possibilities, including rabies, distemper, or encephalitis of other types. We eliminated all of those other possibilities and said, 'Well, what about West Nile?' The tests came up positive."Researchers at the University of Illinois also documented a fatal case of WNV in a 3-month-old wolf that lived in a small zoological collection in northern Illinois. The wolf showed no signs of other diseases; the dog and some of the squirrels, however, had indications of other potentially immune-compromising infections.Dr. Andrews told the Tribune that most dogs are resistant to the disease, but that elderly dogs or those with compromised immune systems could be at higher risk.
Other species are also cropping up as being able to contract WNV. The disease has been observed in cats, goats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, domestic rabbits, domestic birds, and a llama. But for pet owners, of course, the possibility of Rover coming down with West Nile is the one that's most disturbing. Authorities are cautioning pet owners that one documented case shouldn't be cause for worry. It's also important to note that there have been no documented cases of WNV transmission from animals to humans.
Experts believe that WNV is primarily transmitted by bites from infected mosquitoes. But there are a few simple precautions pet owners can take.The University of Illinois recommends that concerned pet owners simply keep pets indoors during peak mosquito hours; dawn, dusk, and early evening. They should eliminate sources of standing water around their homes as such areas are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Pet owners can also consider using certain insect repellents that are safe for pets.
Pet owners should also keep their pets from coming into contact with dead birds or squirrels that may have died from the virus.
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