California Industry, UC Davis Plan West Nile Virus Seminar

With West Nile virus (WNV) expected to appear in California this year, horse owners need to arm themselves with the latest information. The California Thoroughbred racing industry in coordination with the University of California at Davis Center for Equine Health is offering a free seminar on the WNV, which infects horses and humans and can be fatal to both. The seminar, to be held March 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. (PST) at Santa Anita Park's FrontRunner Restaurant, will feature a panel of veterinarians that includes two experts from Florida, one from South Africa, and several from UC Davis.

Dr. Gregory L. Ferraro, Director of the U.C. Davis CEH, has coordinated the seminar. Sponsors include the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), California Thoroughbred Foundation, California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Southern California Equine Foundation, Dolly Green Research Foundation, California Thoroughbred Trainers, Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, Oak Tree Racing Association, and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

"We are very gratified that so many racing organizations immediately volunteered to help us with this effort," Dr. Ferraro said. "Unfortunately, West Nile virus is almost certain to hit the California equine population this year, but if horse owners are knowledgeable about this disease, they can do many things to prevent it from infecting their horses."

Dr. Alan Guthrie, a leading authority on WNV from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, will speak on how the disease developed in that country and how that compares to what is occurring in North America. Drs. Robert J. MacKay and Maureen T. Long of the University of Florida will discuss diagnosis and clinical management of the disease from their experience in that state. Florida has been one of the areas hardest hit by WNV since it was first discovered in the U.S. four years ago.

Because WNV, an encephalomyelitis with a 30% fatality rate in horses, began on the East Coast and has progressed west, California has not yet seen any equine cases. UC Davis personnel have used that time to prepare a prevention plan. As part of that plan, the team is offering this seminar free of charge to horse owners and other interested people.

At the seminar, Dr. Pamela Hullinger of the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture will speak on CDFA contingency planning and disease control. Four experts from UC Davis will round out the panel. Dr. N. James MacLachlan will speak on the background and emergence of WNV in North America and the outlook for the future. Dr. Sharon Hietela will discuss diagnostics and disease monitoring. Dr. John Madigan will talk about the available vaccine as well as other prevention procedures and clinical management of WNV. And Dr. W. David Wilson will speak on vaccination repercussions in mares and foals. At the end of the seminar, the entire panel will be available for a question and answer session.

Although the workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are requested and seating is limited. For further information or to make reservations, please call the TOC office at (626) 574-6620.