09/03/2001 11:00PM

Vets urge West Nile vaccination

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In the wake of last week's discovery of the potentially fatal West Nile virus in a central Kentucky horse, Bluegrass veterinarians are urging horsemen to vaccinate their bloodstock and to get rid of potential mosquito breeding grounds.

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus has killed one person and 12 horses this year. It can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

Dr. Roger Murphy, president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, said the organization is working to allay horsemen's concerns that vaccinated horses will not be allowed into foreign countries because of vaccine-caused positives to tests for West Nile virus.

"It doesn't appear that it will cause any problems with export," Murphy said, adding that to date there have been no additional restrictions on equine shipments abroad because of West Nile.

Murphy said veterinarians should provide a statement including the vaccine serial number, manufacturer, and expiration date along with the date of the horse's vaccine for horses slated for export. In addition, the KAEP's Emerging Diseases Committee recommends that veterinarians take a blood sample immediately before vaccinating any horse, so that the sample can be stored as proof that the horse was negative for West Nile before vaccination.