Health Briefs

Health Briefs

10 Years for Organ, Tissue Donation

The Fairfax County Commission on Organ and Tissue Donation celebrated its 10th anniversary April 25, marking a decade of promoting organ donation among county residents.

A 20-member citizen body appointed by the Board of Supervisors, the commission's primary mission is to increase awareness regarding organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

The commission completes its mission through education and coordination of resources.

Significant projects the commission has initiated or participated in during the past 10 years include: Developing brochures about the commission and about living organ donation; promoting — Virginia’s online donor registry; participating in the Celebrate Fairfax and Fall for Fairfax community fairs; establishing a page on the county’s Web site; promoting the establishment of living donor leave policies for Fairfax County government and other businesses in Fairfax County; and instituting a bone marrow screening program for county employees.

The commission and all of its former members were invited to celebrate the anniversary at a reception prior to a recent Board of Supervisors’ meeting. In addition, the commission was recognized with a proclamation.

Contact John Ruthinoski at the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-2411, TTY 703-591-6435.

Horse Vaccinations Combat West Nile

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services urges all horse owners to vaccinate their animals now against West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis if they have not done so within the past six months.

Last year, fewer cases of both diseases occurred and state officials are concerned that horse-owners may be lulled into inaction by last year's statistics.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the decline in last year's numbers could have been a result of a wet summer — that the torrential rains and floods may have washed out mosquito breeding sites.

But, because wet summer months increase the presence of mosquitoes, officials warn that owners should vaccinate animals every six months in mosquito-prone areas like Virginia.

All of the equine encephalitis viruses — including West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis — follow a similar pattern of residing most of the year in wild bird hosts.

Typical symptoms of encephalitis in horses include staggering, circling, depression, loss of appetite and sometimes fever and blindness.

No cure exists for these diseases, which can kill anywhere from 30 percent, for West Nile, and 90 percent, for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, of the horses infected.

Humans cannot become infected by handling an infected horse and a horse cannot acquire the virus from another infected horse.

However, the presence of an infected horse in the area indicates that mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile are present and pose a threat to humans and horses.

Vaccines are available to drastically reduce the incidence of these diseases in horses.

The vaccines are effective for six to 12 months, so horses must be revaccinated at least annually and, in an area where the disease occurs frequently — southeast and Tidewater — vaccination every six months is recommended.

Additionally, to stimulate full immunity, horses must be vaccinated twice, about 30 days apart, the first time the vaccine is used.

Other prevention methods include destroying standing water breeding sites for mosquitoes, using insect repellents such as DEET and removing animals from mosquito-infested areas during peak biting times, usually dusk to dawn.

Contact the Office of the State Veterinarian, Division of Animal Industry Services at 804-786-2481. Horse owners should contact their veterinarians for further advice on prevention, diagnosis and treatment.