Sunday, September 02, 2001

Vaccine may halt West Nile virus in Ky.

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky veterinarians are awaiting a vaccine that may keep horses from contracting the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can be transmitted to humans and cause deadly encephalitis.

        The first case of West Nile in Kentucky has been confirmed in a horse on a Bourbon County farm. Without a vaccine, Kentucky's horse population could be at risk, because there has been no previous exposure, said veterinarian Dr. Don Notter.

        The vaccine has been given conditional approval, he said, but its effectiveness is unproven. Dr. Roger Augenstein, owner of Augenstein Equine Service in Florence, said he is awaiting shipment of the vaccine, which he will use on about 200 thoroughbreds this week.

        “I've told my clients who want it that there is no danger in using the vaccine, and the expense is minimal,” Dr. Augenstein said.

        “I would imagine this (case) is going to enlighten a lot of people. You don't want to alarm people needlessly. But now that there's been a case in Kentucky, someone has to sit up and take notice.”

        Dr. Augenstein has been a veterinarian for 41 years.

        The virus is not known to be a danger to other livestock, with the possible exception of ostriches and emus, which are raised commercially in parts of Kentucky.

        Agriculture officials said the horse with the first known infection is recovering.

        Aug. 11, a 71-year-old Atlanta woman was the first reported U.S. death from the disease outside the Northeast.

        Associated Press contributed to this report.


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