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West Nile Virus

New Treatment Option

Karen Griffith Farms · 34440 State Route 7 · Pomeroy, Ohio  45769
Call: (740) 992-5782 · E-mail: griffith@frognet.net

West Nile Virus - New Treatment Option

A recently introduced antiserum
provides critical antibodies to the West Nile virus

A new weapon against the *West Nile virus in horses was recently granted a one-year conditional license by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The product, a West Nile virus antiserum, does not prevent infection but instead helps the horse fight off the virus by delivering antibodies directly and instantly into his bloodstream.

"This antiserum is essentially purified antibodies collected from hyperimmunized horses," explains Tom Robb, PhD, of Novartis Animal Vaccines of Kansas, which manufactures the antiserum. "If you have a horse who contracts West Nile, you can deliver this antiserum and provide him with antibodies to fight it. We typically see a marked improvement in the horse within 24 to 36 hours."

Under the conditional license, which is issued after a product is determined to be safe, the antiserum can be sold while data on its efficacy are collected. At press time, Robb anticipated the antiserum would be available in all states.

A West Nile virus vaccine is available, but until now little beyond intensive nursing could be done for horses who became ill. "We saw a real need in the horse community for some type of West Nile virus treatment," Robb says.

What's more, he adds, the antiserum can be used to protect at-risk horses until vaccination is possible. "If one horse in the barn comes down with West Nile virus, you might consider giving this product to other horses until you can get them vaccinated. This isn't a replacement for vaccination but a treatment to be used until you can vaccinate."

Available only to veterinarians, the West Nile virus antiserum is delivered via intravenous infusion. Robb estimates the cost to horse owners to be $350 or more.

*West Nile virus - a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile virus can infect horses, humans, birds and other mammals. In horses, as in people, infection with the virus usually causes little or no illness. For reasons not yet determined, however, West Nile infection sometimes triggers swelling of the brain (encephalitis) that produces limb weakness, muscle fasciculation (twitching), incoordination, behavioral changes, paralysis and recumbency. In severe cases, West Nile encephalitis can lead to coma and death.

Reprinted from: EQUUS - November 2003, Issue 313: Equus staff writer, Christine Barakat

The material presented in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Decisions regarding the health and welfare of your horse or pony should be made only after consultation with a licensed veterinarian. For your horse's health, it is important that you develop and maintain a good working relationship with your local veterinarian.

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Karen Griffith Farms · 34440 State Route 7 · Pomeroy, Ohio  45769
Call: (740) 992-5782 · E-mail: griffith@frognet.net
Web site: www.karengriffith.com

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