April 30, 2003, VANCOUVER - After a long winter in many parts of Canada, the West Nile virus will likely be appearing in a community near you reports The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).


A crow who died north of Toronto has been confirmed as having the virus," states Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. "This is an early confirmation for the West Nile virus." At present, the only way people can get West Nile by a bite from an infected mosquito, or through a blood transfusion or organ donation from an infected donor. There is no evidence of direct animal-to-animal or animal-to-human transmission.


While it is estimated that over 138 species of wild and domestic birds are susceptible to the virus, The Humane Society of Canada wants people be to be aware and not afraid of wildlife.

For example, HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan, points out that he has worked closely with a wide range of animals here in Canada and in over 85 countries - and yet has only twice been sick in 30 years from animal transmitted diseases.

O’Sullivan says we also need to move forward quickly and effectively to tackle global warming, which the World Health Organization says is increasing the risk and transmission of diseases.

"Horses are also in considerable danger if bitten by a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus. Numerous horses have already been infected and approximately one third of clinically ill horses have died," he says.

The good news is that there is a vaccine for horses and The Humane Society of Canada strongly urges people with to speak with their veterinarian about whether their horses should be vaccinated.

Initial reports indicate that the vaccine is working. "Very few horses who have been vaccinated have been infected with West Nile encephalitis," says O’Sullivan.

Initially horses are given two doses of the vaccine three to six weeks apart with full protection occurring several weeks after the second dose. An annual booster is then given so that protection is maintained.

People who have birds should protect them as much as possible. According to O’Sullivan: "Birds kept indoors are at minimal risk, especially if door and window screens are in good repair, but this risk increases significantly for birds who are kept in outdoor aviaries."

Evidence indicates that so far while dogs and cats can become infected with the West Nile virus, they are very resistant to developing the disease.

"Common sense, learning about the virus, being vigilant in efforts to protect pets from the West Nile virus and remaining calm are all necessary element of a successful campaign to fight this disease," advises O’Sullivan.

The following are some things that people can do to help protect pets, people and other animals from the West Nile Virus.

  • Contact your veterinarian about the possibility of having your horses vaccinated for the West Nile virus.
  • Keep horses stabled indoors when mosquitoes are most active (dusk, night, dawn).
  • Consider minimizing your horses’ exposure to mosquitoes by screening their stalls or putting screens on barn windows and doors.
  • Ensure screens on house windows and doors are in good repair to help ensure people and indoor pets are protected.
  • Try to eliminate, or reduce, mosquito breeding areas by removing stagnant water including: disposing of water-holding containers including old tires; turning over children’s pools, wheelbarrows and other things that collect water, cleaning gutters annually; changing the water in bird baths weekly or even more frequently.
  • Learn more about the West Nile virus. Contact your local health department, check the Internet or contact The Humane Society of Canada toll free 1-800-641-KIND or via their website www.humanesociety.com.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The only organization of its kind, seven days a week, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works across the street, across Canada and around the world helping people, animals and the environment.

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