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Horse Racing: West Nile Virus found in state

Sunday, August 19, 2001

West Nile Virus has invaded Pennsylvania's horse population. State Health Secretary Robert S. Zimmerman Jr. announced Wednesday that the mosquito-borne illness has been confirmed in a horse stabled in Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, Bucks County. Zimmerman said it was not known if the horse contracted the illness in Pennsylvania or in Florida, from which it recently was shipped.

The Philadelphia Park case is the 24th confirmed nationally this year. The first 23 were in horses living in northern Florida; seven of those horses died or were euthanized.

Horses cannot transmit the disease to any other living creature. They are what is called a "dead-end host," according to Dr. Jon Palmer, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school in New Bolton, Pa.

Humans also are susceptible to the disease, which the mosquitoes contract from infected birds. Three human cases of West Nile had been reported, two in Florida and one on Staten Island, New York, through Aug. 11.

Symptoms of the illness in horses include weakness and lack of coordination in the hindquarters.

An anti-Nile vaccine for horses recently was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a conditional license. That means its efficacy has not been documented but it has been proven safe for horses. Only limited doses of the vaccine are available, Palmer said.

The best defense against West Nile is mosquito control, Palmer added.

"Get rid of any standing water in the barn area," he said. "Mosquitoes can breed in tin cans, gutters, tires -- anything that holds water."

Palmer also said any methods used to keep flies off horses also may help protect against mosquito bites.

So far this summer in Pennsylvania, West Nile also has been documented in seven birds spread among Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. One also has been confirmed in Lake County, Ohio, near Cleveland.

For West Nile updates, go to the health department Web site: http://www.westnile.state.pa.us/

Horse memorial

The Woodruff Partners has set up a perpetual care fund for the graves of the 28 Meadows horses killed in a July 6 barn fire. Woodruff donated graves for the horses in its Peaceful Pastures Pet Cemetery in Canonsburg. Donations may be sent in care of the cemetery at 2095 Washington Road, Canonsburg, Pa., 15317. Checks should be payable to Peaceful Pastures Perpetual Care Fund. For more information call, 724 745-7008.

More Meadows

A partnership including Magna Entertainment Corp., owner of The Meadows, has submitted the winning bid for purchase of New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. Also in the partnership are Greenwood Racing and two private investors. The bid still must be approved by the New York State legislature.

The Magna partnership's bid was accepted over one submitted by a group comprising New York Racing Association, Churchill Downs and Television Games Network.

VLTs at Belmont

The New York Racing Association said it will support introduction of video lottery terminals at Aqueduct and Belmont Park.

NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz said the NYRA board of trustees does not support VLTs for Saratoga. He said the board agreed with Saratoga Springs, N.Y., officials who said VLTs would be inappropriate for the setting and atmosphere of the historic resort-town track.

Spend a Buck heads south

Former Kentucky Derby winner (1985) and Horse of the Year Spend a Buck is heading to Brazil to stand at stud. Not a particularly brilliant stallion, Spend a Buck was most recently standing in Louisiana. He was purchased by Brazilian breeder Antonio Lengruber and will stand at a farm near Sao Paulo.

Spend a Buck becomes one of six Derby winners and 13 American classic winners standing outside the United States.

Pohla Smith can be reached at psmith@post-gazette.com.

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