Bond residents want pond tested for disease
BOND ” Shelly McCoy thought her horses were safe.
McCoy had had her horses vaccinated for West Nile virus in 2004 and 2005. But cases of West Nile in Colorado have dropped in the last year, so McCoy put off getting her horse vaccinated until it was too late for the shot to be effective this year.
Thursday, that horse died, and testing confirmed the 22-year-old mare died of West Nile. It’s the third horse in the county to die of the disease since 2003.
Two of the horses that died in the county were in the Bond area. Both were pastured within a half-mile of a pond that sits partly on Union Pacific Railroad property behind what used to be Dick’s bar along Colorado Highway 131.
“It’s really concerning. There have been no other confirmed cases of West Nile this year,” said Dr. Courtney Diehl, a local veterinarian who specializes in horses. “The common factor seems to be the swamp.”
Diehl thinks the pond needs to be checked for the presence of the mosquitos that can carry West Nile.
“You have to put the swamp in the top 10 suspects on this,” she said.
McCoy thinks it’s more than a coincidence, too.
But the fact a horse died of West Nile at this elevation, at this time of year, is surpassingly odd.
Diehl reported the case of West Nile to Dr. Jim Grady, the state veterinarian for the Western Slope, as soon as she knew for certain what she was dealing with.
“He told me he was shocked and dismayed to hear about a case of West Nile at this altitude,” Diehl said.
The news came as a surprise to Ray Merry, director of the Eagle County Department of Environmental Health.
“That’s very strange,” Merry said. “First, it’s a bird virus, which means a mosquito needs to feed on an infected bird. And we hardly have any culex mosquitos in Eagle County.”
The “culex” species of mosquito is the only one that can carry West Nile.
Merry said the mosquito that infected the horse might have “over-wintered,” meaning it was infected last year and survived through the winter.
“I think it might have come down the river,” said Wally Glass, who lives near the pond.
McCoy said she believes county officials haven’t been testing enough in that part of the county.
Merry said that isn’t so.
“We’ve done surveillance all over the county the past two years,” he said.
If tests have turned up culex mosquito larvae, Merry’s department will drop tablets of a chemical that kills them before they hatch into standing water.
“On private property, we’ll ask people if we can do it,” he said, adding there’s no requirement for property owners to control pests in standing water on their land.
Treating standing water is pretty simple, Merry said.
“You just go to a hardware store and get a bunch of ‘BTI’ tablets,” he said. “Then you follow the instructions.”
Whatever the answer, Glass said it’s time to do something about it.
“We’ve got a problem,” Glass said. “I think it’s got to be from that pond.”
Wherever the mosquito came from that gave McCoy’s horse West Nile, the fact remains that her horse is dead.
“I lost a dear friend,” she said. “I was late on shots, but for no more cases than there have been, this is a valuable lesson.”
“The risk of West Nile remains low,” he said. “But people should avoid getting bitten.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930 or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado