Colorado State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Ready for West Nile Virus Testing in Fort Collins, Rocky Ford and West Slope Labs

The rapid spread of West Nile virus is an increasing health concern for owners of horses as well as for birds and other animals. To further aid veterinarians and serve citizens throughout the state, the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System is extending its testing and diagnosis of WNV infections in horses to branch laboratories in Southeastern Colorado and on the state’s Western Slope.

"Throughout 2002, 380 West Nile virus-infected horses and 138 wild birds were detected in the state, and an increased number of cases are anticipated during the 2003 season," said Barbara Powers, director of the Colorado State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System. "To meet the needs of horse owners in all areas of Colorado and an expected increase in diagnostic requests, we have expanded West Nile virus testing services to our Rocky Ford and Western Slope labs."

Colorado State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System offices in Fort Collins, Rocky Ford and Grand Junction can accept and test horse serum for WNV. The fee is $7 per serum sample or $5 each for two or more samples with results generally available within 48 hours, depending on volume.

Horse serology samples can be mailed or delivered in person during regular business hours to the closest Colorado State diagnostic laboratory listed below.

  • "Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
    Veterinary Teaching Hospital
    300 West Drake
    Fort Collins, CO 80523
    Phone: (970) 491-1281
    Hours: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • "Western Slope Animal Diagnostic Laboratory
    425 29 Road
    Grand Junction, CO 81501
    Phone: (970) 243-0673
    Hours: 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • "Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
    27847 Road 21
    Rocky Ford, CO 81067
    Phone: (719) 254-6382
    Hours: 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

For specific details about how to submit serology samples, go online to the Diagnostic Laboratory’s user guide at or call one of the labs directly at the phone numbers listed above.

Colorado State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory also continues to offer a variety of other WNV detection tests for horses and all species of animals at its main Fort Collins location, including:

"A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that detects WNV genetic material in the brains of animals infected with encephalitis by analyzing fresh tissue samples is available for $30 a sample.

"An Immunohistochemistry (WNV-IHC) test that detects WNV proteins in brain, heart and other tissues is currently available for $15 per slide. This test is most effective in detecting the disease in wild birds.

Contact the Fort Collins Diagnostic Laboratory for more information about these virus detection tests.

For serology tests to detect WNV in species other than horses, samples should be sent to the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Contact the laboratory at (607) 253-3900 for more information.

For testing of dead wild birds suspected of WNV, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will continue to accept oral swabs from corvids (crows, magpies, ravens and jays) through 2003. Complete information on how to submit samples is available on the CDPHE Web site at or can be obtained by calling (303) 692-2700.

Colorado State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, which offers a wide range of services in the areas of pathology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, toxicology, parasitology and endocrinology, exists to provide timely, accurate and pertinent animal disease diagnostic services and educational outreach to veterinarians, animal industries and animal interests. These services include monitoring animal diseases such as WNV as they affect the domestic and wild animal populations.

West Nile virus, which arrived in Colorado in August of last year, can cause inflammation of the brain and is transmitted by mosquitoes. The virus can infect people, horses, many types of birds and other animals. Although both humans and animals have died from the disease, most WNV infections do not cause illness.

Clinical symptoms seen in infected horses include an elevated temperature, stumbling, lack of coordination, weakness of the limbs or partial paralysis. Horses infected with the virus do not transmit it to humans or other animals.

A vaccine is available to help protect horses from contracting or dying from the disease. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian about vaccination recommendations. At this time, there are no WNV vaccinations for dogs, cats or other pets. Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian if pets are exhibiting unusual symptoms.

To protect both horses and companion animals, owners should consider methods of controlling mosquito populations on their property, such eliminating standing pools of water where bugs can breed and keeping animals inside during the morning and evening when mosquitoes are more likely to be feeding.

For more information about Colorado State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, visit the Web at:

More information about West Nile virus is available at the following Web sites:

  • Center for Disease Control –;
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment;
  • Colorado Department of Agriculture –