Zoo Takes Precautions with West Nile Virus

By  | 

Lansing's Potter Park Zoo is taking extra precautions with its animals after two snowy owls recently died, possibly as a result of the West Nile virus.

Zoo officials say they've sprayed the duck pond and other stagnant pools of water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

They've also inoculated several equine animals including horses, donkeys and the rhinoceros. Experts say the equine family is especially susceptible to the West Nile virus.

Although research is not complete, experts say a West Nile virus horse vaccine - developed about one year ago - appears to be helping in the prevention of the West Nile disease in horses.

Zoo officials say they're testing the horse vaccine on its exotic birds - including the black vulture and the bald eagle. Veterinary experts say the vaccine should not have any adverse effects on the birds.

The zoo is still waiting for test results to confirm whether or not the West Nile virus killed its two snowy owls.

wilx.com: Extended Web Coverage

West Nile virus Facts

  • The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) in humans and other animals.

  • The virus is named after the West Nile region of Uganda where it was first isolated in1937.

  • The virus appeared for the first time in the United States during a 1999 outbreak in New York that killed seven people.

How is the West Nile virus Spread?

  • The virus is spread to humans, birds and other animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.

  • A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that is carrying the virus.

  • West Nile virus is not spread from person to person, and no evidence indicates the virus can be spread directly from birds to humans.

  • Only a small population of mosquitoes are likely to be infected and most people bitten by an infected mosquito do not become sick.

  • 1 in 300 people bitten by an infected mosquito get sick.

  • 1 in 100-150 who get sick become seriously ill.

  • 3 to 15 percent of those seriously ill die.

Symptoms of the Virus

  • The symptoms generally appear about 3 to 6 days after exposure. People over the age of 50 are at a greater risk of severe illness.

  • Milder symptoms include: Slight fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands and/or sometimes a skin rash.

  • Severe symptoms include: High fever, intense headache, stiff neck, and/or confusion.

Protecting Yourself

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding around your home.

  • Wear long and light colored clothing.

  • Use insect repellent products with no ore than 20-30 percent DEET for adults and less than 10 percent for children.

  • Spray repellent on your hands and then apply to your face. Be sure repellent is safe for human skin.

  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

Source: www.vdh.state.va.us contributed to this report