Fighting West Nile Virus at Chehaw -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fighting West Nile Virus at Chehaw

September 4, 2002

Albany- As the West Nile Virus epidemic grows, efforts to safe guard people and animals against the mosquito borne disease continue. Zoo keepers at the Parks at Chehaw are taking steps to keep their animals safe from West Nile.

 Dr. Karl Dockery is one of the veterinarians who checks the zoo animals at the Parks at Chehaw each week. He is on the lookout for West Nile Virus. "We are concerned, but basically we are limited in what we can do. Mosquito contact at night at Chehaw Park is a problem."

The animals most susceptible to West Nile Virus are the zebras. Equine stock like zebras, much like horses, have been hard hit by west nile. Chehaw has four zebras, and all have been inoculated, and are closely watched. "We do have vaccines for horses. But they have never been tested on zebras and the exotic animals. It's a relatively new vaccine and so the tests have strictly been done on horses, and are still in a preliminary tests."

 Dr. Dockery says so far none of the birds at Chehaw, like the bald eagles and ostriches have shown any sign of West Nile Virus. "There was a case in a penguin in South Florida that had determined to be West Nile. These birds are susceptible to other encephalitis diseases, not just the west nile. But currently there is no approved vaccine. We just don't want to do any harm."

West Nile Virus attacks the brain and spinal cord of animals. Called sleeping sickness, the symptoms in animals is standing in a stupor, not feeding. So far none of the zoo animals at the Parks at Chehaw have shown any signs of West Nile Virus.

But the vets and zoo keepers know the animals are their business, and safeguarding them against this increasing disease threat is a priority.

 West Nile Virus was first diagnosed by a zoo in New York, when one of their crows died of the disease. All accredited members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association must perform autopsies on all their animals that die.

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