Equine health experts are advising vets and horse owners to discuss the potential threat of West Nile Virus in the UK, following a spate of outbreaks of the disease in several European countries this year.
Equine health experts are advising vets and horse owners to discuss the potential threat of West Nile virus (WNV) in the UK, following a spate of outbreaks of the disease in several European countries this year.
West Nile virus made recent headline news because of a human outbreak in Greece, which resulted in a number of deaths. Outbreaks have also occurred in Russia, Romania and Italy during 2010.
West Nile fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which carry the virus after biting infected birds. Primarily occurring between July and October (in line with typical peak activity of the mosquito), it can have serious consequences on human and equine health, with severe cases resulting in fatal neurological disease.
There is no cure, though supportive treatment can aid recovery. However if the disease progresses to a state where the animal is not able to stand up, their chance of survival is considered low. Prevention of infection is difficult, but any steps that reduce mosquito numbers or the likelihood of horses and people being bitten may help to reduce the risk in areas where the disease is present. However, the only way to reduce the risk of an individual horse developing disease due to WNV is through vaccination.
Ben Gaskell, equine veterinary advisor for Pfizer Animal Health, said: “West Nile Virus may well become a very real threat to both horses and humans in Northern Europe. It is important for vets, horse owners and infectious disease experts to work together to mitigate its impact in the event of the virus becoming endemic across Europe.
“The rapid spread of the disease across North America is an illustration of what could potentially happen in Europe and it is important to remember there is no curative treatment – the only way to prevent clinical disease in horses is by vaccination.”
Pfizer actively supports the PrEquID (Prevention of Equine Infectious Disease) group, which consists of internationally recognised equine and infectious disease experts. The group was formed to develop guidelines on the prevention and control of a number of equine infectious diseases, on a global basis.
Klaus Osterrieder, professor and chair in the Institut für Virologie in the Veterinärfakultät at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and a member of the PrEquID group advises: “Horse owners should ask their veterinarian for advice on appropriate prevention measures. Experience has shown that adopting a prudent prevention strategy can be a very effective way of managing this devastating disease.”
Further information on WNV is available at www.westnile.eu.